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OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Residents here are upset over a threat by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to impose fines on Vietnamese fishermen who sought shelter in this freeport due to bad weather last November 6.
Residents assailed as callous the position of the SBMA in a memo Thursday, November 7, signed by Jerome Martinez, general manager of the SBMA Seaport Department.
In that letter, Martinez told the Philippines Coast Guard that the Vietnamese fishermen should leave Subic Bay after the weather clears or “otherwise the appropriate port charges will apply.”
But the problem, however, is that the Vietnamese boats did not have enough fuel to make the voyage back, and had been relying on the goodwill of Olongapo residents for food and water in the last few days.
The Vietnamese fishermen were forced to seek shelter in Subic Bay because of the adverse weather conditions spawned by Typhoon Quiel (Nakri).
With the threat of a fine, dismayed Olongapo residents said the SBMA seemed to prioritize collecting a penalty over humanitarian concerns.
Jennimer Medina Delos Reyes, a resident, said that the SBMA’s action was “so heartless.”
Another citizen, Archie Jimenez blamed the lack of leadership of SBMA Chair Wilma Eisma who “did not even give these people one kilo of rice, and yet still wants to collect (fines from them). Are you after [revenue] so bad that you want to milk even stranded Vietnamese?”
In contrast, the local government of Olongapo, led by Rolen Paulino Jr, had been extending support and relief to the fishermen.
Anthony Bayarong, head of public relations for the Olongapo City government, said that “it’s sad that even as Olongapo residents are supporting them, the SBMA will be charging them when these people cannot even buy food. “
Bayarong said that the Office of the Olongapo mayor has already been coordinating with the Vietnamese embassy to address the plight of the stranded fishermen. – Rappler.com