A city councilor in Puerto Princesa City has attributed the killing of Vietnamese businessman Kim Vu Dang on May 8 to a rivalry in the local lobster industry.
Councilor Elgin Damasco said that competition among lobster traders in Palawan has been ongoing and cited an incident where another Vietnamese businessman narrowly escaped an ambush attempt.
He was referring to the attempted murder of Sunny Li in Barangay Burirao, Narra, which took place on August 5, 2020. Li and his driver were able to survive the attack, and police were able to apprehend two suspects in December of that year.
He said this in response to Councilor Luis Marcaida III’s privilege speech on Monday that calls for the City Councilor to adopt a resolution condemning Vu Dang’s murder.
“Kung maalaala ninyo, noong nakaraang taon ay in-ambush ang isang lobster buyer din sa Narra, si Mr. Sunny Li at ang unang lumabas din na suspect ay itong pinatay ngayon na si Mr. Vu Dang,” Damasco said.
“Pero lumabas siya at nagsabi na mayroong isang lobster buyer din, isang Taiwanese national na nag-text sa kanya na ipapapatay na lang si Mr.Sunny Li dahil mahirap kausap,” he added.
Damasco said that investigators believe that the rivalry in the lobster business could be a possible motive for the ambush then.
He said that the main issue stems from the absence of a common buying price among the lobster businessmen.
“May isang buyer na bumibili, P100 ang buying price, may mababa, bibili ng 40 lang kada lobster tapos maibebenta nila sa Vietnam ng P700 to P800. At doon sila hindi nagkakasundo. May pagkakataon na halimbawa, si Mr. Vu, siya ang pinakamalaki na buyer dito sa lungsod at sa mga munisipyo na pinapasukan din ng mga buyer,” explained Damasco.
He added that the competition among lobster traders has escalated to the point where certain buyers are preventing their rivals from entering certain towns.
“Parang nagkakaagawan na sila sa area na kung ikaw dyan hindi ka na pwedeng pumasok dito,” he added.
The lobster industry in Palawan has expanded to such an extent, said Damasco, that some traders have resorted to murder, as evidenced by the recent incidents involving Vietnamese businessmen.
Lobster business regulation
He stressed the importance of enacting a regulation that specifically targets the lobster industry and revealed the existence of a proposed ordinance before the City Council to address this issue.
“Naghihintay tayo ng comment mula sa Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), at sa Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) na noong nakaraang linggo ay naipatawag natin. Kaunting pagrepaso na lang sa ordinansa nang sa ganoon ay magkaroon ng systematic na paraan lalo na sa buying price dahil dyan sila nagkakatalo and we need to address that issue,” he said.
On the evening of May 8, Vu Dang was fatally shot while inside the stockroom at the back of his house. Immediately after the incident, Puerto Princesa City Police Office director Col. Ronie Bacuel formed a Special Investigation Task Group, known as SITG Vu Dang, to focus on the case.
A day after its formation, the task group released a computer-generated composite image of the suspect. Vu Dang’s family also offered a reward of P300,000 to anyone who could identify and turn in the suspect.
During a press briefing last Friday, Bacuel stated that they are investigating the possibility of business competition as a motive for the murder, although he mentioned that they are also evaluating other pieces of information.
During his privilege speech, Marcaida motioned for the City Council to pass a resolution that condemns the murder of Vu Dang and expresses their strong disapproval of the incident.
“I hope this will not send a negative signal na isang businessman ay pinatay ng ganoon na lang,” he said.
Marcaida is a close friend of Vu Dang, whom he previously described as “very kind” in an interview with Palawan News.
Vu Dang will be laid to rest today, May 16, at 3 p.m. at the Puerto Princesa Memorial Park.