The Philippine government will not file charges against 10 Vietnamese who were caught poaching for sharks, among other fishes, in Palawan province, President Rodrigo Duterte said late Thursday.
“I have ordered the other companions of that group [of Vietnamese]who intruded into our economic zone… that they should… I told [Justice Secretary Vitaliano] Aguirre 2nd to just dismiss the case and deport them. After all, there were some of them who already died,” Duterte added in a news conference at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting hosted by Vietnam.
The President, who had a bilateral meeting with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang, was referring to the case of two Vietnamese sailors killed by he Philippine Navy in Pangasinan last March after a chase within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“We’re not after the fact that this [intrusion]has to be proven in the investigation, that our ships, the Coast Guard were being rammed. You have to capture [the poachers]. If you cannot capture the poachers, you may pursue them,” Duterte said.
The Vietnamese arrested for poaching in Palawan back in August include: Thanh Hiep, Vo Van Lang, Phan Dung, Truong Cao Ky, Dinh Van Hai, Bui Van Bao, Tran Ngoc Son, Do Hung, Nguyen Van Huynh and Nguyen Cung Vu. They are 22 to 56 years old.
Duterte’s stance was a complete turnaround on the take of the military in August which announced that the Vietnamese will face poaching charges.
The President assured Vietnam that justice will be served in the case of the slain Vietnamese sailors in Pangasinan.
“I expressed my regrets and assured him [Vietnam’s President] that our justice system is working. It is very important that they see the courts moving to render justice, and we are at that point already. And maybe we will talk about compensation [at a]later [date],” Duterte said.
“Administratively, there has been a verdict finding them [Philippine Navy] at fault in shooting [the two Vietnamese]. There’s this argument that this is in defense of their ship, which was being rammed [by the Vietnamese]. And that [attack]was what was being prevented. But under our laws, you cannot kill a person because of stealing. If it is an act of robbery and there’s the danger of the victim being killed, then that is the time that you can use force,“ he added.
The President, who previously called for the killing of drug traffickers and drug users as well as human rights workers, then underscored that human life is not cheap.
“We do not have any right at all to kill a human being because… our courts have ruled that human life is more valuable,” Duterte added.
Vietnam is the Philippines’ 12th largest major trading partner in 2016, amounting to $2.72 billion.
Areas for trade promotion in Vietnam include consumer products, food and manufacturing.
Accompanying the President to the bilateral meeting with the Vietnamese leader were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido Tejano, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, among others.