PUERTO PRINCESA CITY (PNA) — The PNP Maritime Special Boat Unit (SBU) filed Friday evening charges of violation of the Philippine Fisheries Law or Republic Act 8550 against 11 Chinese and five Filipino fishermen intercepted on May 6 in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) in the disputed West Philippines Sea (WPS).
Lawyer Allen Ross Rodriguez, head of the Office of the Prosecutor (OP) in this city, confirmed the filing of poaching cases against Sino boat captain Chen Hi Quan and 10 crewmen, and Filipino boat captain Romantic Banto Almain and four others Friday at around 7:30 p.m. before the 36 hour prescription expired.
“The PNP Maritime SBU filed charges against them last night before the deadline for them to do so expired at 8:00 p.m. The cases were all for violation of sections 87 and 97 of Republic Act 8550,” the prosecutor told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Saturday in a telephone interview.
Rodriguez however, said the inquest did not happen because the interpreter who was available only speaks Mandarin.
”The inquest will have to be done Monday since the interpreter who was there last night only knows Mandarin. These fishermen speak Hainanese. Of course, we have to have an interpreter who can speak to them since they have to know that they also have a right to request for a preliminary investigation and to know what their violations are,” Rodriguez said. Hainanese is a variety of Min Nan Chinese spoken in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan, where the arrested foreign fishermen are from.
On the possession of green sea turtles (pawikan) as endangered species, Rodriguez said the case might be filed on Monday as soon as proper inventory procedures have been conducted and preserved as evidence.
According to the Philippines’ fisheries law, “entry of any foreign fishing vessel in Philippine waters shall constitute prima facie evidence that the vessel is engaged in fishing.”
The violation carries a fine of U.S. $ 100,000 in addition to the confiscation of the catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel.
Violation of Section 97 for taking rare, threatened and endangered species, meanwhile, carries a penalty of imprisonment of 12 to 20 years and a fine of P120,000, including forfeiture of the catch.
The fishing vessel Qiongqionghai 09063 loaded with over 300 live and dead endangered green sea turtles arrived at the PNP Maritime SBU Headquarters at around 4 a.m., according to personnel who refused to be named.
Reeking bad smell mixed with the clear aqueous solution of formaldehy, it was pulled by a maritime boat to Honda Bay, an exodus that started early morning of May 7 from Hasa-Hasa Shoal, or what is now known as a “slaughter place” for green sea turtles in the high seas of the WPS.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, representatives from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSDS), the Palawan Provincial Police Office (PPO), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) boarded the fishing vessel with its Sino boat captain and personnel of the PNP Maritime SBU to begin the inventory of the endangered species.
As witnessed, the live ones were measured and loaded to a different boat for temporary custody of the PCSDS in a yet to be disclosed location for later release.
The dead ones, on the other hand, were brought to shore for further documentation before they are buried at the DENR wildlife burial ground later. (PNA) CTB/CARF/PJN