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5 Chinese held by Navy for poaching in Palawan

10:09 PM December 03, 2011

PUERTO PRINCESA—Naval authorities on Thursday arrested five Chinese nationals conducting illegal fishing off Palawan’s southernmost sea corridor in Balabac.

Adm. Rostum Peña, Naval Forces West (Navforwest) commander, said the five were brought to Puerto Princesa on board BRP Apolinario Mabini on Saturday for the filing of charges.

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He said the Chinese fishermen were spotted aboard a speed boat some 1.5 nautical miles from the coastal village of Ramos, Balabac, and were captured following a chase by an enforcement team led by a Navy patrol boat.

The Chinese’s boat yielded five live marine turtles, three dead ones and assorted fishing paraphernalia, including butchering tools.

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Peña said the arrested Chinese nationals were believed to have come from the mainland China province of Hainan and was part of a bigger fishing fleet which was able to elude arrest.

The Chinese speed boat, according to Navforwest spokesperson Lt. Noel Joseph Cadigal, had two high-powered outboard engines and tried to ram the naval patrol boat before attempting to escape.

Cadigal said the Chinese speed boat malfunctioned during the chase allowing the law enforcers to catch up.

Peña, in an interview, said he observed that the Chinese poachers have adopted a different approach and were no longer the ones conducting fishing but were instead financing local villagers to conduct the illegal fishing.

“We need our local government units to be more vigilant and prevent this form of exploitation by foreign poachers,” Peña said.

Dozens of Chinese poachers had gotten away with illegal fishing in Palawan in the past after national government officials, often the Department of Foreign Affairs, intercede on their behalf amid Chinese government pressure.

China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its territory in a dispute with several other countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

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While the Philippine government has laid claim to territories that it now calls part of West Philippine Sea, it was unlikely for Philippine officials to be able to protect this claim in the face of Chinese military might.

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TAGS: China, poaching, South China sea, Spratlys, West Philippine Sea
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