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Gov’t to pursue charges vs Sino fishers

Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The charges against Chinese fishermen will be pursued along with the damages due to the grounding of a Chinese vessel on Tubbataha Reef, Malacañang said yesterday.

Asked if a compromise was possible for diplomatic considerations, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the “charges have been filed and the trial is scheduled to start soon.”

“So yes, the charges continue... We never compromise on the damages, those are mandated by law, and those are done and valued according to what the law dictates so we only follow the law,” Valte said.

Chinese officials were reportedly intervening for the release of the fishermen, citing bilateral relations between the two countries. There were instances in the past where Chinese fishermen were released after being detained for poaching. But this time there are calls to enforce the country’s laws completely to serve as a lesson and warning against incursions.

The 12 Chinese crewmen of the fishing boat F/B Min Long Yu were arraigned on Friday, pleading not guilty to the charges of poaching and illegal entry.

They were arrested for alleged poaching in the marine reserve and anger mounted after hundreds of dead pangolins or scaly anteaters – a protected species – were later discovered in their boat.

The 48-meter fishing boat has been removed from Tubbataha on Friday, or 11 days after it got stuck in the reef.

Authorities have filed a charge of corruption against the Chinese men for allegedly trying to bribe their way to freedom.

The 12 Chinese fishermen are also facing charges over possession of the anteaters, locally known as “balentong.”

Palawan environmental legal officer Adelina Villena said regardless of whether the animals came from Palawan or elsewhere, the 12 could be charged for transporting a threatened species through Tubbataha.

The stranding of the vessel on April 8 raised concern over the potential damage to the protected coral reef and the gathering of the rare pangolins.

Pangolins are widely hunted in parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales – in China they are considered a delicacy and are believed to have medicinal qualities. In the Philippines, they are found only on Palawan.

The Philippine office of the World Wide Fund for Nature condemned the poaching of the pangolins after the men were caught, saying that growing demand in China was wiping out the animal in Southeast Asia.

ABIGAIL VALTE

ADELINA VILLENA

B MIN LONG YU

CHINESE

IN THE PHILIPPINES

PALAWAN

SOUTHEAST ASIA

TUBBATAHA

TUBBATAHA REEF

WORLD WIDE FUND

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