MANILA - President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday said the Philippines cannot jail Chinese poachers caught in the act in Philippine waters.
In an interview in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Aquino cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Aquino was asked by a local reporter if the government can jail Chinese poachers caught in the Philippines.
“Under UNCLOS in particular, ‘pag meron nitong mga poachers, hindi sanctioned ng UNCLOS iyong pagkukulong sa kanila. Pagkukulong meaning iyong --- I am trying to remember the exact phrase eh, pero iyong imprisonment cannot be --- and other forms of corporal punishment --- cannot be meted out for poaching," he said.
"Pumirma tayo doon sa kasunduang iyon, 1982. Sa totoo lang, noong 1982 ay kaka-graduate ko nang college, so hindi ako pumirma noon. Parang ilagay lang natin ng tama sa record,” he said.
Aquino said the most that government can do is impose a fine.
"Ang pagkaintindi ko, pwedeng arestuhin, pero hindi mo pwedeng ikulong as a penalty, which is na iyon ang nakasaad doon sa ating batas. Under Article 2 of the Constitution, Section 2... the second part of the statement says: 'Adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.'"
"So ang dulo nito, habang ipinagtatanggol natin ang karapatan natin under UNCLOS, lalabagin rin natin iyong provision ng UNCLOS, inconsistent tayo,” he said.
The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China over disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.
The UNCLOS grants the Philippines a 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone from its coast. China stakes its claim based on a map created by renegade Kuomintang forces in Taiwan.
Philippine maritime police recently arrested 11 Chinese poachers off the coast of Palawan. Two minors were freed while the rest pleaded not guilty for violating the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 before a Palawan court.
They are were charged for violation of Section 87 (Poaching in Philippine Waters) and Section 97 (Fishing or Taking of Rare, Threatened or Endangered Species.