LINGAYEN, Pangasinan– “The job of the president is to maintain balance of friendship and power in the (Asean) region.”
This was how President Rodrigo Roa Duterte described the send-off of five Vietnamese fishermen on November 29 at the municipal wharf in Sual town.
Noting that the incident is considered “minor”, President Duterte said that “we should find forgiveness in our hearts in the interest of the larger picture” stressing the commitment made during the recently-held Asean Summit hosted by the Philippines.
“I have made a commitment and they promised to do the same to treat our poor citizens who may happen to intrude somewhere,” President Duterte said.
In his message before the send-off ceremony, Governor Amado I. Espino, III who commended the leadership of the President for showing “Tapang at Malasakit,” said: “Today, as you send off our brothers from Vietnam to return to their country, you have again displayed your ‘malasakit’ to our neighboring countries.”
Governor Espino said that the President has taken the lead as the unifying force of the Philippines’ neighboring countries.
The Vietnamese fishermen caught poaching on Philippine waters at about 34 nautical miles offshore Cape Bolinao in western Pangasinan last September 22 were turned over to the Philippine Navy detachment in Sual right after their arrest.
Vietnamese fishermen Phan Lam, Pham Net, Nguyen Van Trong, Nguyen Tan Chi, and Pham to have been verified by the Vietnamese consulate as “marginalized fishermen.”
It can be recalled that in November 2 last year, president Duterte also led the send-off of Vietnamese fishermen in Sual.
Expressing gratitude to the Philippine government, Vietnam Ambassador to the Philippines Ly Quoc Tuan, who was present during the send-off, cited the event as “a vivid representation of the friendship of Vietnam and the Philippines.”
Seated with the President and the governor were some Cabinet officials of the Duterte administration to include Presidential Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Agriculture Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, Social Welfare and Development with Sual Mayor Roberto Arcinue.
Reiterating all-out support on president Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, Governor Espino bared that the provincial police is optimistic that before the year ends, Pangasinan will be “100 percent drug-free.”
Based on the latest official report from the Pangasinan provincial police, 99 percent of the previously drug-affected barangays in Pangasinan are now cleared from illegal drugs.
Governor Espino also noted that the provincial government, for its part, conducted the mandatory-random drug testing among over 4,000-strong employees of the provincial government – the first among local government units in the country after the President declared war against illegal drugs.
The provincial chief executive likewise thanked the president for his support on the agricultural development of the province through the Department of Agriculture.
Joining other national and local officials at the the ceremony were former Governor, now fifth District representative, Cong. Amado T. Espino, Jr. and Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Z. Calimlim, Jr, /Mark Gerry Naval Oblanca