ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine Army is holding dozens of Chinese poachers after intercepting them off the southern province of Basilan on their way to Palawan, a rich marine sanctuary about 586 kilometers southwest of Manila, officials said on Monday.
Members of the 4th Special Forces backed by naval gunships, according to the officials, blocked 18 Chinese trawlers near Langil Island and apprehended the poachers.
The trawlers were towed to a naval base in Zamboanga City where the poachers are being investigated.
Initial military reports said the poachers were heading to Palawan to illegally fish but had to seek shelter from Typhoon Ruby.
The identities and exact number of the poachers were not immediately known.
Palawan province—which lies between Mindoro Island on the north, Sabah on the south, West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on the west and Sulu Sea on the east—is rich in marine resources and a favorite fishing ground in the Philippines.
Filipino authorities had arrested and detained dozens of Chinese poachers in recent years.
In May, the Philippines nabbed 11 Chinese poachers, including two minors, near Hasa-Hasa (also known as Half Moon Shoal) Shoal, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The minors were released by authorities since under Philippine laws, minors cannot be prosecuted.
Filipino authorities also recovered from the Chinese poachers many dead giant sea turtles, which are endangered in the Philippines.
The poachers were all found guilty by a local court and each fined $100,000.
There was no immediate statement from the Chinese Embas-sy in Manila about the latest detention of its poachers in Zamboanga City.
The Philippines and China, both locked in territorial disputes, had accused each other of violating international maritime laws.