GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 April) – Eleven more fishermen from this city who were jailed in Indonesia due to illegal fishing and immigration violations returned home over the weekend after getting reprieve from their prison terms.
Councilor Ronnel Rivera said Monday the fishermen were earlier ordered repatriated by the Indonesian government following interventions made by the Philippine Consulate in Manado, North Sulawesi province.
He said the repatriates, who were mostly jailed in Bitung in North Sulawesi, arrived aboard a vessel commissioned by the Ronnel C. Rivera (RCR) Foundation Inc.
Rivera said the fishermen were immediately turned over to the Philippine Coast Guard and the City Social Welfare and Development Office for proper documentation.
The official said most of them were crew members and officers of fishing boats owned by various tuna fishing companies based in this city that were apprehended by Indonesian naval personnel after encroaching Indonesia’s fishing grounds
“Some of them already served jail terms of two to three years before they were released and subjected to repatriation,” Rivera said.
He said most of them were crew members and officers of fishing boats owned by various tuna fishing companies based in this city that were apprehended by Indonesian naval personnel after encroaching Indonesia’s fishing grounds
One of the repatriated fishermen, identified as Reynaldo Ligas, already spent around three years in a prison in Bitung before he was repatriated.
Ligas had worked for almost 11 years for a local fishing company, which supposedly abandoned them following their arrest by Indonesian authorities.
Rivera said his foundation is currently working with the consular office in Manado regarding the status and the possible repatriation of fishermen from this city and the neighboring area who are still languishing in various jails in Indonesia.
In the last three years, the RCR Foundation already facilitated the release and repatriation of around 300 fishermen from Indonesia.
“There should be a dialogue on how we can help our fishermen and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) office there,” Rivera said.
“If they lack budget to handle these cases, maybe the local government can support them,” he said.
Rivera, who is seeking the mayoralty seat against incumbent Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, doused off suspicions regarding the timing of the repatriation saying they had been facilitating such even before he was elected to the city council in 2010.
The councilor is running under the People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance coalition while Custodio is backed by the administration’s Liberal Party. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)