Philip­pines as­sures Viet­nam of fair probe on dead fish­er­men

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - News Plus -

MANILA -- The Philippine gov­ern­ment said Mon­day a Viet­namese fish­ing ves­sel ini­ti­ated "very dan­ger­ous ma­neu­vers" and slammed into a Filipino navy boat dur­ing a chase, prompt­ing its sailors to fire warn­ing shots then later found two Viet­namese dead on the ves­sel.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano in­formed his Viet­namese coun­ter­part, Pham Binh Minh, of the deadly en­counter that oc­curred early Satur­day off the north­west­ern Philip­pines and as­sured him of a fair in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Cayetano talked to Minh, who also serves as Viet­nam' deputy prime min­is­ter, dur­ing a meet­ing at the United Na­tions in New York.

"We would like to of­fer our sym­pa­thies over the un­for­tu­nate loss of life and give you our as­sur­ance that we will con­duct a fair and thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this mat­ter," a Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs state­ment is­sued in Manila quoted Cayetano as telling Minh.

Cayetano as­sured Minh that the five other Viet­namese fish­er­men who were taken into cus­tody by Philippine au­thor­i­ties will be treated well and could be ac­cessed any­time by Viet­namese of­fi­cials, who are be­ing up­dated on devel­op­ments.

A Philippine se­cu­rity of­fi­cial told The Associated Press on Sun­day that the in­ci­dent un­folded closer to the Philippine coast and was not re­lated to the main ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes far­ther out in the South China Sea.

The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs in Manila was the one au­tho­rized to speak on the is­sue.

Still, the deadly in­ci­dent un­der­scores the dan­ger that lurks due to over­lap­ping ter­ri­to­rial claims in a re­gion where com­pe­ti­tion is heavy for fish, oil, gas and other mar­itime re­sources. In 2013, Philippine coast guard per­son­nel opened fire and killed a Tai­wanese fish­er­man on board a boat that sailed in waters be­tween the north­ern Philip­pines and Tai­wan, spark­ing protests in Tai­wan. Tai­wan im­posed sanc­tions be­fore the row was diplo­mat­i­cally re­solved.

The Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs in Manila said a Philippine navy pa­trol ves­sel en­coun­tered six Viet­namese boats fish­ing within the coun­try's exclusive eco­nomic zone about 34 nau­ti­cal miles (63 kilo­me­ters) off Cape Bolina in the Philippine prov­ince of Pan­gasi­nan.

Such zones ex­tend 200 nau­ti­cal miles (370 kilo­me­ters) where a coastal state has in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized exclusive rights to fish and ex­ploit other sea re­sources al­though for­eign ships could pass through.

The Filipino sailors chased the Viet­namese fish­ing ves­sels, one of which "ini­ti­ated very dan­ger­ous ma­neu­vers that re­sulted in it slam­ming into the left front and left cen­ter of the Philippine pa­trol ves­sel," the depart­ment said.

That "prompted per­son­nel on board the navy ves­sel to fire warn­ing shots and when the navy per­son­nel boarded the fish­ing ves­sel, they found two dead Viet­namese fish­er­men," the depart­ment said, adding five other Viet­namese fish­er­men sur­ren­dered and were taken into cus­tody.

The se­cu­rity of­fi­cial told AP the Viet­namese ves­sels were us­ing pow­er­ful lights to at­tract fish off Boli­nao town. The use of lights for that pur­pose is pro­hib­ited un­der Philippine law.

The Filipino navy per­son­nel "fol­lowed the rules of en­gage­ment, in­clud­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­to­col and use of ra­dio and pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem," the of­fi­cial said, adding that the Viet­namese fish­ing boat was towed to Pan­gasi­nan af­ter­ward.

Viet­namese Em­bassy of­fi­cials were not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

Viet­nam and the Philip­pines have both voiced op­po­si­tion to China's as­ser­tions of its ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea, but Philippine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has toned down his coun­try's crit­i­cism in an ef­fort to thaw once-frosty re­la­tions and re­vive trade with Bei­jing.

De­spite (AP)

A Filipino metal worker uses a faucet to clean him­self as he pre­pares to go home in metropoli­tan Manila, Philip­pines on Fri­day, Sept. 22, 2017.

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