LINGAYEN -- An inter-agency committee was created to look into the case of two Vietnamese fishermen who were found dead inside a fishing boat chased by a Philippine Navy ship for alleged poaching off Cape Bolinao in Pangasinan last September 23.

The committee, called Provincial Committee on Illegal Entrants (PCEI), is composed of various government agencies and is headed by the Police Provincial Director Ronald Oliver Lee.

It was formed based on the directive from the Regional Committee on Illegal Entrants based in San Fernando City, La Union, said Lee.

Members of the PCIE are the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) as the lead agency, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Information Agency, Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Navy.

In its initial case conference last September 25, the PCIE narrowed down its investigation into three issues: the death of the two Vietnamese fishermen, illegal fishing, and poaching within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

On the death issue, the PCIE created a sub-group that will look into the matter. It is composed of the PNP, PCG, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Scene of the Crime Operatives, and Philippine Navy.

Lee said he received a report that all the 49 crewmen of the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19) were placed under restrictive custody, while the commanding officer of the vessel, Wilmer Base, has been temporarily relieved pending the completion of the investigation.

The crewmen also turned over 10 M-16 rifles and two caliber 50 machine guns to the PNP for ballistic examination.

Lee said the ballistic examination will show if any of these firearms was used and by whom, which may have led to the death of the two Vietnamese fishermen on board their vessels.

It was the Soco that investigated the fishing vessel and conducted autopsy on the remains of the two dead Vietnamese fishermen.

Meanwhile, it was reported early Tuesday, September 26, that the five Vietnamese fishermen arrested by the Philippine Navy were ordered to return to their boat moored in a wharf in Sual port in Pangasinan but under the watch of the PCG, BFAR and PNP. (PNA)