The Philippine Navy has ordered the removal of the ship captain of Miguel Malvar Patrol Ship (PS) 19 with the rest of its crew under restrictive custody to give way to an investigation of the deaths of two Vietnamese fishermen over the weekend in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, on Wednesday said the order was enforced against the ship captain by Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, Navy flag officer-in-command,.
Arevalo did not identify the ship captain.
In a statement, he said AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año and Mercado also ordered a “thorough and impartial inquiry” into the ship’s alleged ramming of a boat carrying the two Vietnamese fishermen and five others, all also Vietnamese.
On Saturday, the seven Vietnamese fishermen were caught poaching 34 nautical miles off Bolinao,
Pangasinan, using a super light fish attractor within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Arevalo said an internal investigation of the incident was initiated by the Philippine Navy.
“To ensure that such kind of an inquiry will be attained, Vice Adm. Mercado ordered the relief of the ship captain of his command while the rest of the crew were on restrictive custody aboard the Navy ship to make them available for the duration of the investigation; and commissioned third party investigators like the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard to do an independent inquiry,” he added.
Arevalo said there were six Vietnamese fishing vessels at the time but only one was allegedly rammed by the Philippine Navy patrol ship.
“All hitherto statements and issuances we are yielding to the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs that] will be furnished with appropriate reports. The updates shall be communicated to [the department’s]counterpart in the Republic of Vietnam,” he added.
Capt. Lued Lincuna, Navy spokesman, said in an earlier statement on Wednesday that the commanding officer and the crew of the patrol boat were removed to ensure impartiality of the inquiry.