DAVAO CITY, Philippines – At least 31 Filipinos were repatriated from Sulawesi in Indonesia on Friday, April 20, after they were apprehended over various offenses.
The Filipinos were nabbed either for illegal fishing, overstaying, or illegal entry, according to Major Ezra Balagtey, public affairs officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
In a ceremony held here Friday morning, the 31 repatriates were presented to Special Assistant to the President Bong Go; Maria Lourdes Lim, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority XI; and Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal, Eastmincom commander.
"From Indonesia, they were boarded via PN Ship 'Davao del Sur' and were transferred to the BFAR Ship [Lapu-Lapu] along Sarangani Bay to bring them to Davao," said Balagtey.
Balagtey said the Davao del Sur departed Davao City on April 7 to participate in the joint patrol operations of the Philippine and Indonesian navies in Indonesia.
The repatration was done through the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs on April 10 in Manado, the capital of Indonesia's North Sulawesi province.
"The repatriates (went through) quarantine prior to their disembarkation from BFAR Ship Lapu Lapu," said Balagtey.
The Bureau of Immigation also processed their travel documents, while the Department of Social Welfare and Social Development facilitated their return to their communities.
Four of the repatriates come from Davao, 8 from Zamboanga, 17 from General Santos City, and two from Sarangani province.
Many Filipino fishermen in the south sail to parts of North Sulawesi such as Bitung, which is known to be a haven for fishing due to its rich aquatic resources.
In the past few years, however, Indonesia has tightened its policies on its maritime borders over security and environment concerns.
In January this year, Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti vowed she would continue blasting undocumented ships caught sailing in their waters.
Since 2016, over 50 vessels from the Philippines had been sunk by Indonesia's Maritime Afairs and Fisheries Ministry, along with hundreds of other foreign ships found to operate illegaly in Indonesian waters. – Rappler.com