PUERTO PRINCESA CITY: Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma maintained that environmental laws of the country should be implemented judiciously and fairly against foreign fishermen who are arrested for poaching within the country’s territory.
The secretary made the statement in relation to criticisms lodged against the government for donating to Vietnam a vessel seized from Vietnamese fishermen caught poaching in Philippine waters.
The donation was reportedly made despite a request from the local government of Palawan to acquire the vessel for use in relief operations during calamities and patrolling its waters.
According to Coloma, environmental laws aim to impose discipline concerning the preservation of the environment and to protect the interest of the country over its fisheries and aquatic resources.
“Having said that, there is also a foreign policy consideration in that when foreign individuals are involved, especially if their governments come to our government to ask for leniency… for a… what seems to be consideration… and because our relationship with them is good, then our country might be able to give consideration. I am not authorized to speak on that, if that is going to be a foreign policy matter because that is usually coursed through diplomatic channels,” he said, adding that if there is such a request or move, the decision will come from the Vietnam government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“I do not want to pre-empt. But what I can say is that whatever is the principle we are following . . . first and foremost . . . whatever the laws are designed to protect our fisheries and aquatic [resources]must be implemented; second, the law must be applied fairly and equally . . . if nationals of another country, and after promulgation of penalties on them . . . and their countries will have representations . . . then from a purely judicial perspective, dimension is added which is foreign policy . . . foreign diplomatic perspective,” he said.
Coloma said that if the case concerns foreign diplomacy, it is the DFA that should recommend the position that the government should adopt.
What is important in the case of the Vietnamese fishermen, he said, was that the law was implemented, and the Philippines is showing that it is implementing its policies to protect its natural resources.
Coloma, meanwhile, advised the local government of Palawan “to further make its voice be heard.”
”I am sure that if the local government does that, they will be given due consideration. If that is really the sentiment, then it can be heard because it is a valid expression of their authentic sentiment as local government,” he said.