Chinese poachers grounded at Tubbataha reef... Spies?
The pieces of the USS Guardian was just removed this happens.
Poaching charges filed vs. Chinese fishermen in Tubbataha incident
Philippine authorities on Wednesday afternoon lodged poaching charges against 12 Chinese fishermen whose vessel ran aground in Tubbataha Reef before midnight last Monday.
The Tubbataha Management Office plans to lodge at least three more charges against the fishermen on Thursday, radio dzBB's James Viernes reported.
The charges were based on Section 27 of Republic Act 10067, the Tubbataha National Park Act. Under Section 27 of the law, "poaching by foreigners" involves the entry of any foreign fishing vessel in the Tubbataha Reef area "shall constitute prima facie evidence that the vessel is engaged in fishing in the area."
It is punishable by imprisonment of six to 12 years in prison, and a fine of $100,000, as well as the forfeiture of the catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel.
Republic Act 10067 mandates the protection of Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular diving destination.
During the inquest proceedings at the provincial prosecutor's office in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, the Chinese fishermen appeared hungry and munched on crackers, the report said.
Representatives from the Chinese Embassy were present during the proceedings.
After the inquest proceedings, the fishermen are expected to be detained at the Palawan Provincial Jail, the dzBB report said.
Second grounding incident
Shortly before midnight Monday, the Chinese fishermen's vessel ran aground at Tubbataha Reef, three months after a similar incident involving the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian.
The US vessel was finally extracted two weeks ago and four of its crew members were relieved of their duties for failure to follow standard US Navy navigational procedures, but the Philippine government did not press charges against the ship's sailors.
In a separate report, radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate James Viernes said the Chinese fishers admitted that they were on a fishing venture at the time they entered Tubbataha Reef, after coming from Malaysia.
Speaking with the aid of an interpreter, the fishermen identified the boat captain as Ki Jian Ji but declined to give further details about their intrusion, the report added.
Buffer zone expansion
In a related development, the Philippines is studying the possibility of expanding the area in Tubbataha Reef that is considered restricted after the latest grounding incident, President Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday.
“The bottom line is that we have a law, it’s Republic Act 10067. ‘Entering within the zone, there is presumption poaching is your objective, there are penalties—there is imprisonment, there is a fine—and our job as the executive department is to execute this law,” Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of the groundbreaking of the Roxas Airport Development Project in Roxas City, Capiz.
“There is contemplation to add more lighted buoys and to expand the so-called buffer zone,” Aquino added. — KBK/YA, GMA News
And the twist...
Tubbataha mystery: Some facts don't add up
Puerto Princesa City (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Defense officials and investigators in the Philippines looking into the grounding of a Chinese fishing boat on an atoll in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park may not be dealing with an accident but an intrusion.
A defense official told the Inquirer on Friday that the investigation has found "some facts that don't add up."
For example, the 48-metre Ming Long Yu is supposed to be a fishing vessel but it is not fitted to hold fish.
"It is not even loaded with ice, which is normal to a fishing operation," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as he had no authorisation to talk to journalists about the investigation.
Angelique Songco, Tubbataha marine park superintendent, confirmed that the Ming Long Yu had no equipment and facilities for fish storage, such as ice makers and refrigerated holds.
The absence of those capabilities indicates that the Ming Long Yu is not a fishing vessel and that the 12 men who have been arrested and charged with poaching and bribery are not fishermen but intruders who have come with a purpose other than fishing.
Are they spies?
But the defense source said the investigators were not ready to make that conclusion or decide the nature of the vessel's grounding on the northern atoll of Tubbataha Reefs, a protected marine sanctuary in a remote area of the Sulu Sea.
Reporters asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin if he thought the 12 Chinese nationals were spies. He said that might be the subject of an investigation.
Gazmin said it would be unfair to accuse the 12 men of being spies without sufficient basis.
He said he hoped the grounding of the Ming Long Yu days after the removal of the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, from Tubbataha was only "coincidental."
But the grounding of two foreign vessels one after the other in Tubbataha should be looked into, Gazmin said.
The Philippine Navy is investigating the January 17 grounding of the USS Guardian and the April 8 grounding of the Ming Long Yu but the intelligence community may also investigate, Gazmin said.
As for what the 12 men of the Ming Long Yu really are, Gazmin said: "We also have our intelligence community that can look into these and analyse and see if indeed they are genuine fishermen or disguised as fishermen."
Francis Chua, the interpreter hired by the Philippine Coast Guard to talk to the 12 Chinese nationals, stated in his affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, that the men claimed they were sailing to China from Indonesia but lost their way and ended up with their vessel jammed onto an atoll in Tubbataha.
Chua stated that the Chinese claimed they were based in Fujian, China.
"I asked them many questions but they were hesitant to answer," Chua said.
He said the 12 men had no passports or identification cards.
Not like fishermen
Songco said the 12 men did not look like "typical poachers" familiar to marine park rangers. Their physical features are different from Chinese fishermen arrested in the past for poaching in Palawan, she said, but did not elaborate.
Songco said the investigators have sent samples of chemical substances found on the vessel to a laboratory for examination "to determine if those are noxious substances."
The 12 men are detained at the provincial jail in Palawan, which has jurisdiction over Tubbataha Reefs, where the supposed fishermen claimed their vessel was tossed by rough seas on Monday night.
The Tubbataha Management Office brought poaching charges against the 12 men on Tuesday. The next day, it brought bribery charges against them for offering marine park rangers US$2,400 to release them.
Two officials from the Chinese Embassy traveled to Puerto Princesa City on Tuesday and tried but failed to secure the release of the 12 men.
The Palace on Friday played down the reported intervention by two Chinese embassy officials. Strategic Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said Chinese Consul General Shen Zicheng and Third Secretary Li Jian were only trying to help the fishermen, who were charged with poaching in the protected marine sanctuary.
"The Chinese officials were only trying to assist their citizens," Carandang said in a text message.
"For our part, we are only enforcing our laws in our territory," he added.
Shen and Li tried to talk marine park and security officials into releasing the fishermen, whose 48-metre, steel-hulled boat ran aground on the northern atoll of Tubbataha Reefs on Monday night.
But the pleas of the two diplomats were "quietly turned down," a member of the Tubbataha Management Board said.
Songco said by phone that she did not see the visit of Shen and Li as an overture to get the 12 men freed.
She said, however, that she approached Shen during the inquest proceedings at the prosecutor's office on Wednesday to ask him for help in removing the Ming Long Yu from Tubbataha.
She said Shen told her that the vessel owner was a private company and that he did not know how to get in touch with the company.
A Coast Guard ship and a salvor vessel are sailing to Palawan to look at the Ming Long Yu and plan its extraction from the reef.
Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said the weather at Tubbataha remained favourable for the salvage operations, which were expected to take a week to complete.
Evangelista said one option was to refloat the vessel by lightening its load, including siphoning off 80,000 litres of diesel fuel.
He said the vessel's hull was intact and there was no sign of an oil spill.
Bishop Pedro Arigo of Palawan said the grounding of the Ming Long Yu was an unfortunate incident and called on the government to tighten security in the marine sanctuary to prevent groundings of foreign vessels on the reefs.
In a message posted on the Internet news service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Arigo acknowledged that the government lacked resources to enforce maritime laws in the area.
But Arigo said he hoped the government would give the Coast Guard additional funds and modern equipment to enable it to keep poachers and other intruders out of Tubbataha.
DND presses need to probe 12 Chinese ‘poachers’
Written by Mario J. Mallari
Saturday, 13 April 2013 00:00
Contrary to Malacañang’s current stand, the Department of National Defense (DND) sees the need to form a task team to investigate the 12 Chinese crew members of a grounded vessel at the Tubbataha Reef to determine whether they are “spies in disguise.”
“The intelligence community must look into this case to determine whether these Chinese fishermen are really what they are or whether they are spies in disguise,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin stressed.
He said an inquiry into the latest incident at the Tubbataha Reef, roughly 1,600 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, is very logical as the area is restricted to fishing.
Malacañang the other day downplayed the possibility that the 12 Chinese were involved in espionage.
The 12 Chinese were arrested after their supposed fishing vessel ran aground the Tubbataha Reef last Monday or barely two months after American warship USS Guardian was also grounded in the World Heritage Site-listed marine sanctuary.
Charges of poaching, illegal entry and bribery have been filed against the 12 Chinese who are currently detained at the Palawan Provincial Jail.
Poaching is punishable by at least six years imprisonment, while the corruption case carries 12 years imprisonment and $2,400 fine – the same amount of bribe the fishermen supposedly offered to park rangers.
The charges were based on Section 27 of Republic Act 10067, the Tubbataha National Park Act.
Under Section 27 of the law, “poaching by foreigners” involves the entry of any foreign fishing vessel in the Tubbataha Reef area “shall constitute prima facie evidence that the vessel is engaged in fishing in the area.”
Speculations that the 12 Chinese were not actually fishermen but spies immediately cropped up.
“That will not be missed in the investigation, it will be included,” Gazmin said.
He, however, stressed authorities have no basis yet to support such allegation.
“It is difficult to make any accusation, we should have a basis for accusing these people or suspecting people, it is unfair,” Gazmin added.
But the Defense chief insisted that investigations must also determine whether the grounding was accidental.
He noted that the grounding of the Chinese fishing vessel is very strange considering that the US has just removed the ill-fated USS Guardian last March 30.
“Let’s just hope it’s coincidental. As I said…it means that we need to have an investigation to really know what happened,” Gazmin stressed.
The US minesweeper ran aground off Tubbataha Reef last January. 17
Meanwhile, Malacañang said it is open to accept “suggestions” on how to protect the country’s marine resources following the Tubbataha incidents.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had already sent representatives to provide assistance to its nationals who are currently in detention.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) yesterday announced that the hull of the Chinese fishing vessel is structurally sound and can be towed without any danger of sinking or breaking apart.
“We are currently studying measures to prevent further incidents at Tubbataha Reef. We will consider all constructive inputs,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ramon Carandang said.
Comdr. Enrico Efren Evangelista, PCG Palawan District head, for his part, said the hull, engines and propellers of the stricken Chinese ship are intact and very much capable of floating again.
“The ship’s hull is intact. It’s not like the case of the USS Guardian, which was badly holed upon her grounding last Jan. 17,” he said.
Evangelista added this is attributable to the Chinese’s ship largely metal structure.
The PCG official pointed out that the American ship sustained heavier damage due to its wooden hull.
He added that defueling or lightening of the Chinese fishing vessel will start once the BRP Corregidor arrives Saturday morning.
Evangelista said BRP Corregidor will be assisted in this endeavor by the BRP Romblon.
The PCG chief said around 8,000 liters of fuel will be removed from the ship aside from other cargoes.
“Once this is done, we will try to tow her (Chinese ship) during the high tide,” Evangelista stressed.
Were 12 Chinese 'poachers' spies?
Posted at 04/12/2013 3:59 PM | Updated as of 04/12/2013 3:59 PM
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense on Friday said it will look into reports that 12 Chinese fishermen on a fishing vessel that ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef are actually spies.
Speaking to reporters, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the intelligence community will first investigate the fishermen before making any kind of conclusion.
"We have also our intelligence community that can look into this, analyze and see if indeed they are genuine fishermen or disguised fishermen. It's difficult to just make an accusation. We should have a basis in accusing people or suspecting people. That's unfair," he said.
The 12 Chinese fishermen whose ship grounded in a protected marine sanctuary in the Philippines could face long jail terms after being charged with poaching and bribery, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The fishermen have been in detention since sanctuary rangers found their vessel on Tuesday jammed onto the UN World Heritage-listed Tubbataha Reef, roughly 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from China's nearest major landmass.
Alen Ross Rodriguez, chief prosecutor in the island province of Palawan, said the 12 had been charged with poaching for violating a law that bans fishing in Tubbataha, an isolated reef in the Sulu Sea famed for its spectacular and diverse marine life.
They were also charged with "attempted corruption of public officials" because they tried to bribe the rangers, offering them $2,400 to be released, Rodriguez said.
Both of those charges carry maximum jail sentences of 12 years.
However, Grizelda Mayo-Anda, head of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center in Palawan, said Chinese fishermen caught poaching in Philippine waters were typically deported quickly in an effort to appease China.
"The government has always treated them (fishermen) with kid gloves for political considerations so as not to cause any adverse reaction from China," Mayo-Anda told AFP.
She said more than 600 Chinese fishermen had been caught poaching over the past decade but in nearly every case they spent just a few weeks or months in jail before being deported.
Meanwhile, a Palace spokesman on Friday responded to reports that two ranking officials of the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday asked for the immediate release of the 12 fishermen.
"The Chinese officials are only trying to assist their citizens. For our part, we are only enforcing our laws in our territory," said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office. With a report from Agence France-Presse
So spies or smugglers?
If they are spies this is the most stupidest spy operation I've ever heard.
If they are spies the president is keeping mum on it. Which brings to question what is their objective?
Does it have to do with the USS Guardian? Looking pieces of US technology?