PH seizes Vietnamese fishing vessel off Ilocos
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Thursday, October 8, arrested 7 Vietnamese fishermen believed to be fishing illegally in its waters, the Philippine Navy said in a statement released on Friday.
The Philippine Navy corvette, BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36), was deployed to continue search and rescue operations for missing Filipino fishermen when the sailors sighted the foreign fishing vessel flying a Vietnamese flag 22 nautical miles west of Curimao, Ilocos Norte.
"When challenged several times thru marine band radio, the said fishing vessel did not respond and attempted to make evasive maneuvers which prompted PS 36 to intercept the fishing vessel and conduct Visit, Board, Search and Seizure procedures," said Captain Albert Mogol, commander of the Philippine Naval Forces Northwest (NTF40) based at Poro Point in San Fernando City, La Union.
"It was found that the fishing vessel has a crew of 7 – all Vietnamese nationals – without pertinent documents and identification papers," Mogod added.
Manta rays, tuna, and shark meat and fins "believed to be illegally caught within the Philippine EEZ" were discovered.
The fishing vessel was towed to the port of Currimao, Ilocos Norte and will be turned over to the proper local offices with the powers to enforce laws on illegal fishing and illegal entry of foreigners – the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI), respectively.
The Philippine Navy has been deputized to make arrests on behalf of these agencies.
Countries have exclusive rights to develop resources located 200 nautical miles off their coastlines, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Vietnamese fishing vessels, along with the Chinese, are commonly monitored on Philippine waters during maritime patrol flights, although the country is not always capable of arresting them.
Illegal fishing and poaching is a growing concern in the region as countries get more protective of their territories in light of maritime disputes.
The Philippines and Vietnam are both fighting the aggressiveness of China, which has constructed a string of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
One of the weakest in the region, the Philippine military vowed to protect Philippine-occupied territories. Allies like the US, Australia, and Japan have been helping the country beef up its naval assets so it can develop the capability to patrol its long coastline.
"NTF40 will continue to perform its mandate of patrolling the Philippine waters against lawless elements in order to protect the interest of the Filipino people today and the generations to come," said Mogol.
Arrests could turn into diplomatic disputes, however. In 2012, the Chinese Coast Guard occupied Scarborough Shoal off the Philippine province of Zambales in the aftermath of a tense standoff with a Philippine Navy warship that was supposed to arrest Chinese fishing vessels found in the area.
China also raised concern early this year when Indonesia destroyed and sank a Chinese fishing vessel for fishing in its EEZ.
Various countries have been in talks to make such incidents less problematic.
The Philippines and Vietnam are also set to finalize by the end of the year a "strategic partnership" to bolster defense, political and economic ties. – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com