200 jailed fishers repatriated

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY: Some 200 fishermen from this city and other parts of Mindanao who were jailed in Indonesia for illegal fishing and immigration violations will be repatriated by the Philippine Consulate General in Manado after serving their sentence.

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Daniel Te, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Regional Consular Office-12 here, said the fishermen are expected to arrive on August 25 from Bitung in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, in a vessel owned by Filipino businessman Voltaire Loma.

He said Loma, who is based in Bitung, volunteered to bring home the fishermen, most of whom have already completed their sentences.

“The vessel left the Bitung port last Friday and we were informed that its arrival is on schedule, barring weather-related problems along the way,” he told PNA.

Te said the Consulate General in Manado in North Sulawesi earlier processed the repatriation of the fishermen after being notified of their release from detention by the Indonesian government.

The consulate has verified the citizenship of the fishermen, mostly undocumented or without passports and other official travel documents, as the Philippine Constitution mandates that it can only repatriate or bring home Filipino citizens.

Based on the identification documents nearly 90 percent of the repatriates are from General Santos City and nearby Sarangani province.

Most of them are crew of fishing boats owned by companies based here who were caught illegally fishing in Indonesia’s territorial waters and charged with illegal entry and fishing violations.

DFA records showed a total of 229 fishermen jailed in Indonesia have returned home since January.
Repatriated in February were 136 fishermen and 93 more in May.

As of Monday, Te said about 300 fishermen from Mindanao are languishing in various jails in Indonesia.
He added that they have been closely coordinating with fishing companies here to prevent incursions in Indonesia’s fishing grounds.

The official said they were able to get commitments from fishing companies and vessel owners for the proper monitoring of their fishing operations.

PNA

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