Philippines Promises Full Probe After Vietnamese Fishermen Killed in Chase

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By Clarissa Batino and Ditas Lopez (Bloomberg) — Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano promised a full investigation into the deaths of two Vietnamese fishermen during a weekend sea chase off the coast of Pangasinan province.

Philippine Navy personnel opened fire on a Vietnamese fishing vessel on Saturday after it collided with a navy patrol boat. The Philippines says the Vietnamese vessel was spotted fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“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,” Cayetano said he had told Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a statement issued on Monday.

Cayetano said he had informed Minh of the incident at an informal meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers in New York, adding that investigating teams from the Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police have already been dispatched to Pangasinan to look into the incident.

In the statement, Cayetano said his department received reports that Saturday’s incident “involved a Navy patrol vessel and six Vietnamese fishing boats” that it encountered 34 nautical miles (63 nautical kilometers) off Cape Bolinao.

“In the ensuing chase, one of the Vietnamese boats initiated very dangerous maneuvers that resulted in it slamming into the left front and left center of the Philippine patrol vessel,” according to the statement.

This 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. Five others surrendered and were taken into custody,” according to the statement.

Last September, President Rodrigo Duterte released 17 Vietnamese fishing poachers as a sign of goodwill between the two countries.

The shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard in May 2013 threatened relations between the two countries, putting at risk the jobs of about 10,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P