Prosecutors in the Philippines on Wednesday dropped charges against 37 Vietnamese fishermen who were accused of catching some of the country's rare marine species, the Vietnam News Agency reported.
However, the local judge is still considering the issue before deciding whether or not exempt the fishermen on two boats skippered by Tran Hut and Nguyen Thanh Nhan from prosecution or not, according to the Vietnamese embassy in Manila.
Previously, the fishermen, together with 85 others were acquitted of charges of violating the country's territorial waters at a hearing on August 24-26.
While 85 were released, the 37 fishermen were still kept in custody in Palawan province, because rare snails - Trochus niloticus, locally known as samong, Cassis cornuta (budyong), and Charonia tritonis (tambuli) were found on the two boats.
Nhan had told Thanh Nien earlier that they'd caught the snails just for fun, because their shells were beautiful.
All the 122 fishermen from the central province of Binh Thuan were arrested on May 30, as Filipino police found the papers they presented upon their arrival weren't legal.
They had come to the Philippines to fish under a contract with Ho Chi Minh City-based Long Hai Long, which had signed a contract with the Philippines-based Premiere International Interfishing to acquire fishing licenses for the fishermen.
However, ever since the fishermen were arrested, the foreign company's representative, Kho Tho Min, has apparently absconded.
According to the news source, the Vietnamese embassy is working with local related agencies so the fishermen can have their boats back and return to Vietnam as soon as possible.
The released fishermen are now living at the Philippines' military camp.