DAVAO CITY – Ten Filipino fishermen, including one minor, who were arrested by Indonesian authorities in their territorial waters for various violations, arrived in Sasa Wharf here on Saturday afternoon.
Most of the repatriated fishermen came from General Santos City, who were released with the effort of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Liason in Manado, Indonesia.
These fishermen faced cases like illegal fishing, poaching, smuggling and illegal entry in Indonesia.
In an interview on Saturday, Assistant Secretary Uriel Normal Garibay of DFA-Mindanao, confirmed that less than 20 Filipinos, whose papers are still being processed for their repatriation, are still in prison in Indonesia.
“We are just happy that the Indonesian government fast tracked the papers of these Filipinos and we are looking forward to the repatriation of those who are left,” Garibay said.
However, Garibay said he is not certain on the schedule of their release since their papers are still on process.
“As of now, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will take care of them. They will eventually be sent home after the processing and assistance of the agency,” he added.
DSWD distributed food packs and cash assistance to the 10 fishermen for them to start new livelihood.
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., commander of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and the chairman of the border committee of the Philippines, said the rescue of the fishermen became more possible since the BRP Emilio Jacinto was in Indonesian waters last July 17-24 for the second leg of the Coordinated Patrol of Philippines-Indonesia (CORPAT PHILINDO).
Santos said that the coordinated patrol provides the naval of both countries an opportunity to improve the capability to further secure the borders through simulation of various scenarios like rescue and disaster response.
“We took advantage of the presence of our vessel in Indonesia to rescue these 10 distressed Filipino fishermen,” he said.
It can be recalled that the Philippines and Indonesia have increased this year’s coordinated border patrol activities where their first leg was done in May.
“The coordinated naval operations we are conducting strengthens our relation with Indonesia and boost our security effort in securing the border,” Santos added.
Joeper Escobal, of Malapatan, Sarangani Province, was among the rescued fisherman who was being held for about one year in Indonesia for illegal fishing.
Escobal narrated that they went to Indonesia on May 14, 2018 and got caught by Indonesian authorities without proper documents and charged for illegal fishing.
“I’m very happy and excited to be with my family again,” he said. (PNA)