Follow the law, China tells fishermen amid PH ruling
MANILA, Philippines – China urged its fishermen on Thursday, August 7, to “abide by laws” after a Philippine court sentenced 12 Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing.
The Chinese fishermen's ship ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef, a Philippine World Heritage-listed marine sanctuary outside the disputed South China Sea, in April 2013.
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China “will continue to provide consular assistance within their remit to the Chinese fishermen and request the Philippine side to guarantee their legitimate rights and interests.”
“Meanwhile, we hope that Chinese fishermen working at the sea can abide by laws and carry out normal fishery production,” Hua said.
She added that since April, “China has been urging the Philippine side to impartially handle the case in accordance with law and ensure the legitimate rights and interests and humanitarian treatment of the Chinese fishermen.”
China issued this statement after a court in Palawan on Tuesday, August 5, imposed prison terms of up to 12 years on the 12 Chinese fishermen.
First foreigners found guilty
Philippine officials arrested them at the Tubbataha Reef, a marine sanctuary famed as a pristine dive spot, after their 48-meter (157-foot) boat hit and badly damaged it.
The Chinese vessel destroyed 3,902 square meters of corals, some of these estimated to be about 500 years old, according to the Tubbataha Management Office.
The court in Puerto Princesa, Palawan found them guilty of violating the anti-poaching provisions of a 2009 law that gave the Tubbataha Reef protected status, according to clerk of court Hazel Alaska.
Regional trial court judge Ambrosio de Luna also fined the fishermen P4.372 million ($100,000*) each, while their boat was forfeited, Alaska added.
They were the first foreigners to be found guilty of violating the law, according to Herminia Caabay, legal officer for a council that helps the western province of Palawan protect its natural resources.
Alaska said the fishermen remain on trial for possession of protected species within the park, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
*P43.72 = $1