MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – Authorities on Wednesday, April 10, filed charges of poaching against the 12 Chinese nationals on board the vessel that ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef.
The poachers are also expected to face other administrative and criminal charges, including illegal entry and attempted bribery. Tubbataha park rangers earlier said the Chinese nationals attempted to bribe them with US$2,400 when they reached the grounded vessel.
“We went ahead with the filing of the poaching case first and other violations under the law that created the Tubbataha marine park. Other
cases, including that one involving bribery, will follow,” lawyer Adelle Villena of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) said.
The Chinese nationals arrived in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, on Wednesday at 8:30 am on board the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Romblon.
They were taken to the Gen Artemio Ricarte Hospital at the military’s Western Command (WesCom) for a medical check-up. Dr Alekhine Tinio, the doctor in charge, said the fishermen were in good physical condition although two of them had “minor head abrasions.” There was, however, no need for further medical assistance, according to Tinio. They are presently being detained at the provincial jail facility.
Consul General Shen Zicheng and 3rd Secretary Li Jian of the Chinese embassy in Manila also arrived in WesCom Wednesday to meet with defense officials. They have not issued any statements as of posting.
The Tubbataha Management said the primary case to be filed against the Chinese nationals will be based on their violation of Section 27 (Poaching by Foreigners) of Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Act of 2009.
Those found guilty of violating Section 27 face imprisonment of between 6 years and 1 day to 12 years and a fine of $100,000. The offender’s catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel will also be confiscated.
Although the Tubbataha management earlier released a list of charges set to be filed against the poachers, WesCom clarified that there is no official list yet.
Various agencies are working together to prepare the charges. They are: the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Western Command, Bureau of Customs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Municipality of Cagayancillo.
It has been a year since the Philippine Navy found Chinese fishing vessels anchored at the disputed Scarborough Shoal carrying illegally collected marine life, such as corals, giant clams and live sharks. The incident sparked a standoff between the Philippines and China, a dispute that has remained unresolved up to this day. – with reports from Angela Casauay/Rappler.com