Palace won't intervene in case of Chinese poachers

By Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 12 2014 06:04 PM | Updated as of May 13 2014 02:07 AM

Provincial Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez said the Chinese fishermen refused to be represented by public attorneys. The Chinese consul said they will not hire attorneys because they believe the fishermen were in Chinese territory. Photo by Hazel Salas, ABS-CBN News Palawan

MANILA - Malacanang will not intervene in the case of the Chinese fishermen nabbed recently for alleged poaching in Palawan.

Officials of the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines made a call last week for the release of the fishermen. But at a press briefing Monday morning, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said Malacanang is taking a hands-off approach on the case.

"We are leaving the processes to the authorities concerned. There is an inquest process going on and that would be handled by corresponding authorities in Puerto Princesa (Palawan Province)," said Coloma.

The secretary explained that the case is not unusual, and that there have been several similar incidents in the past.

"Pangkaraniwang magkaroon ng ganyang mga insidente dahil na rin sa lawak ng karagatan na pinapatrolya ng ating mga law enforcement authorities. Kaya't 'yung aking binanggit ay paglalarawan ng pangkaraniwang karanasan diyan sa karagatan ng ating bansa," said Coloma.

He said the past poaching incidents were the reason why a Palawan Council for Sustainable Development was created.

"Because the area that we are talking about is rich in aquatic resources and in wildlife and biodiversity. And that is why there is increased vigilance on the part of our government and citizens to preserve the environment and to enforce the law against people that will violate our environmental laws," he said.

The waters off Palawan province where the Chinese fishermen were arrested is part of the West Philippine Sea, an area also claimed by the People's Republic of China.

Coloma said that in the recent trip of President Benigno Aquino III to Myanmar for the ASEAN Leader's meeting, significant progress was made in terms of attaining support for the positions taken by the Philippine government.

A joint statement was issued by the Foreign Ministers of all the members of ASEAN wherein they emphasized three salient points.

According to Coloma, all countries concerned were urged to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which could undermine peace and stability in the area in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force.

"ASEAN member countries reaffirm the importance of maintaining peace and stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation in and over flight above the South China Sea, as well the ASEAN's six-point principles on the South China Sea, and the joint statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," said Coloma.

He also noted that the 10th BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) was also held, immediately after the ASEAN Summit, where leaders of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines decided to concretize the plans made to link the roads, ports and airports of the four countries.

"Naitatag na ang direct flights sa pagitan ng Kota Kinabalu at Puerto Princesa at ang nabuong Memorandum of Agreement sa pagitan ng mga pribadong kompanya sa pagtatatag ng Davao-GenSan-Tahuna-Bitung shipping service," he said.