Ten Vietnamese fishermen were detained on suspicion of poaching off a remote island in the southwestern Philippines, the coast guard said Thursday, months after President Rodrigo Duterte freed 17 others from Vietnam who were caught committing a similar offense.
The Philippine Navy’s flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar was conducting a sea patrol on Tuesday when it intercepted a fishing vessel in the vicinity of the Malampaya gas field, located some 32 nautical miles from Taputin Island, which is part of Palawan province, according to an initial investigation.
The boat was later identified as a “foreign fishing vessel carrying a Vietnamese flag,” according to the coast guard.
Philippine coast guard officials, backed by the navy and personnel from the fisheries bureau, were immediately dispatched to conduct a search.
The search revealed that the suspicious vessel “had ten crew members on board and more or less 70 pieces of slaughtered sharks.” The Vietnamese men were promptly taken into custody.
They are being held for allegedly poaching in Philippine waters, and will be subjected to deportation proceedings, officials said.
Both countries are among six nations that have territorial claims in the South China Sea. The others are Brunei, China, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Foreign fishermen have often been caught off Palawan, and the arrests have fueled tensions in the region and complicated territorial disputes over the sea.
In November last year, Duterte freed 17 Vietnamese fishermen who had spent two months in detention after they were caught poaching in Philippine waters.
The release came shortly after Duterte made a working visit to Vietnam in September, where he had promised his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Qai Dang that his nationals would be freed.