Jails Chinese Fishermen For Infringing Wildlife Law
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[May 10, 2014]
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines
has jailed 11 Chinese fishermen caught with endangered sea turtles off a
disputed shoal in the South China Sea, officials said on Saturday,
rejecting demands from China to free the men.
China has claims on the South China Sea, an area rich in energy
deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5
trillion worth of ship-borne goods. Brunei, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the area.
The Philippine National Police on Tuesday intercepted a Chinese
fishing boat carrying about 350 marine turtles off Half Moon Shoal
in the Spratlys, arrested its crew and took them to the southwestern
province of Palawan to face charges of violating wildlife protection
If found guilty, the fishermen, who were transferred to a provincial
jail late on Friday, face prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years.
But each can post bail of 150,000 pesos ($3,400) to secure temporary
liberty while facing trial.
"They will remain in detention until the office of the provincial
prosecutor has determined whether there is probable cause for the
filing of formal charges," said Allen Ross Rodriguez, a government
China's embassy in Manila on Thursday sent a diplomat to Palawan to
interview the fishermen and work for their early release. But
authorities said they must go through the judicial process.
A panel of Philippine officials has to decide separately on charges
of illegal entry after the fishermen were caught about 60 miles off
Palawan, but within the country's exclusive economic zone.
China has demanded the release of the vessel and its crew, saying it
has undisputed sovereignty over the area and adjacent waters in the
South China Sea.
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Tension is also rising in the Paracel islands after China parked its
biggest mobile oil rig 120 miles off the coast of Vietnam, with each
country accusing the other of ramming its ships in the area, in the
worst setback for Sino-Vietnamese ties in years.
The incidents in the Paracel and Spratlys islands are likely to be
taken up by Southeast Asian leaders who are due to hold an annual
summit in Myanmar's capital on Sunday.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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