Malacanang on Thursday justified the seizure of two vessels, one of them a Chinese boat, loaded with close to 500 turtles at the Hasa Hasa Shoal in Palawan in the disputed South China Sea.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group was enforcing environmental laws and upholding the country’s sovereign rights.
“The action taken by the Philippine National Police yesterday [Wednesday] in apprehending a foreign fishing vessel and a local fishing boat is in accordance with its duty to enforce environment protection and wildlife conservation laws while upholding Philippine sovereign rights over our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” Coloma told a press conference.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a statement on Wednesday, confirmed that the Chinese fishing boat was caught carrying large numbers of endangered species within Philippine waters.
This prompted the PNP Maritime Group to capture the boat and arrest the crew at around 7 a.m. Tuesday in Hasa Hasa, also known has Half Moon Shoal, 100 kilometers from Palawan.
The boat, which has crew of 11, carried about 500 turtles, several of them already dead, the maritime police reported.
A Philippine boat was also apprehended after 40 turtles were found on board.
Sea turtles are listed are on the endangered species list and are protected under Philippine laws.
The captured boats were towed to Puerto Princesa City, where appropriate charges will be filed against their crew.
Coloma said “relevant authorities in Palawan will address this case in a just, humane and expeditious manner.”
Once in Puerto Princesa, the PNP Special Boat Unit (SBU) will inform the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) for a coordinated action on the incident.
Based on Republic Act 9147, the PCSD can prosecute violations of the wildlife act.
The SBU will also inform the Palawan Council on Illegal Entrants (PCIE). The chief of the Armed Forces Western Command is the council’s chairman.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE