Suspected poachers on board two Chinese fishing vessels flying an inverted Philippine flag were arrested by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) team off the Balintang Channel between Babuyan Island and Batanes province.
BFAR national director and Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Asis Perez said that the team was conducting a seaborne patrol aboard BFAR patrol vessels MCS 3010 and MM Patrol Boat 3049 after 3 p.m. on Monday when they chanced upon the fishing vessels, Shen Lian Cheng 719 and Shen Lian Cheng 720 with a combined 25 crew members on board.
Both fishing vessels were observed flying an inverted Philippine flag within the country’s waters, particularly along the Balintang Channel.
“Based on existing rules, the fact that both foreign fishing vessels were flying the Philippine flag gave rise to the presumption that they are engaged in poaching, as there seems to be an attempt to conceal the vessels’ true identity to enable themselves to engage in fishing activity,” Perez said.
Upon inspection, all documents indicated that the vessels are registered with the People’s Republic of China, but with no authorization to traverse Philippine waters.
The fishing vessels were later escorted to the capital town of Basco in Batanes for further investigation.
Perez said they have communicated with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the incident, and requested for official interpreters to be sent to Basco during the investigation process.
The Chinese Embassy, through the DFA, will be formally notified on the arrest of their fishermen, he added.
Meanwhile, 18 Vietnamese fishermen were also found poaching off the waters of Calayan group of islands in Cagayan province on Thursday will be deported after they have paid the fine, according to Perez.
Perez pointed out the owner of a fishing vessel caught poaching would be fined US$1 million per vessel as per international agreements.
Authorities have ascertained that the poachers had been fishing on Philippine waters for at least 10 days before their arrest.
The arrested poachers were on board three fishing vessels. At least seven other fishing boats with an undetermined number of crew members managed to evade the authorities.
The BFAR has coordinated with the Vietnamese Embassy for the immediate deportation of the fishermen.
WITH REPORT FROM LEANDER DOMINGO