Nine Chi­nese fish­er­men freed from Philip­pine jail fol­low­ing tur­tle con­vic­tion

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

The Philip­pines has freed nine Chi­nese fish­er­men con­victed of poach­ing en­dan­gered sea tur­tles af­ter they com­pleted one-year jail terms, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The nine, ar­rested in dis­puted wa­ters in May last year, were jailed af­ter they failed to pay fines of US$100,000 each for poach­ing and an ad­di­tional US$2,662 each for catch­ing an en­dan­gered species.

“They were treated well. They had what other pris­on­ers were eat­ing. Chi­nese busi­ness­men were also al­lowed to bring them food like noodles,” Raul Mapa, a jail of­fi­cer in Puerto Princesa where the pris­on­ers had been jailed, told AFP.

A lo­cal court is­sued a re­lease or­der late Mon­day on the re­quest of the fish­er­men’s lawyer, in ac­cor­dance with pro­ce­dure, act­ing clerk of court Lour­des Dad­ule told AFP.

Po­lice said they found hun­dreds of sea tur­tles, pro­tected un­der Philip­pine law, on the group’s 15-tonne boat at Half Moon shoal, lo­cated on the eastern edge of the Spratly is­land chain claimed by both the Philip­pines and China.

The shoal is lo­cated 111 kilo­me­ters (60 nau­ti­cal miles) west of Palawan is­land, which Philip­pine au­thor­i­ties said was within the coun­try’s 200-nau­ti­cal mile ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone.

The group’s catch and fish­ing equip­ment were con­fis­cated.

The in­ci­dent put fur­ther strain on ties be­tween the two na­tions who have been wran­gling over is­lands and reefs in wa­ters that are be­lieved to hold vast oil and gas de­posits.

The Chi­nese pris­on­ers were re­leased to Philip­pine im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials in Puerto Princesa, a city on Palawan, on Tues­day night, Mapa said.

They were sched­uled to be flown to the im­mi­gra­tion bureau head­quar­ters in Manila on Wed­nes­day, he said.

Im­mi­gra­tion spokes­woman Elaine Tan could not im­me­di­ately say whether the nine would be de­ported to China.

A spokesper­son for the Chi­nese em­bassy in Manila had no com­ment.

China’s claim to al­most the en­tire South China Sea con­flicts with those of the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Malaysia and Tai­wan.

The Philip­pines has sought to raise alarm glob­ally over what it de­scribes as “mas­sive” recla­ma­tion works by China on dis­puted reefs in the Spratlys.

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino last week drew par­al­lels be­tween China’s is­land-build­ing and Nazi Ger­many’s creep­ing in­va­sion of Europe just be­fore World War II.

Aquino has sought ar­bi­tra­tion of the Philip­pines’ ter­ri­to­rial row with China be­fore a United Na­tions-backed tri­bunal and sought stronger mil­i­tary al­liances with the United States and Ja­pan.

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