PALAWAN – Inquest proceedings for the 11 Chinese fishermen caught allegedly poaching off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands was postponed Friday for lack of an interpreter.
The inquest proceedings were reset on Saturday at 10 a.m.
"Walang interpreter. Pero bukas 10 a.m., kapag dumating ang vessel at interpreter," said provincial prosecutor Atty. Allen Ross Rodriguez.
According to authorities, the suspects face charges for violation of RA 8550, Sec. 87 or Poaching in Philippine Waters; Sec. 97 or Fishing or Taking of Rare, Threatened or Endangered Species; and RA 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
Rodriguez, however, said the suspects may post bail.
He said another case, which involves illegal entry in the country, may prompt the Bureau of Immigration to hold their departure.
Charges were not filed earlier against the alleged poachers, pending the pending the arrival of their vessel where around 350 sea turtles were discovered.
Upon the vessel's arrival, the illegal haul will be subjected to inventory by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.
The alleged poachers were taken by the PNP Maritime Group – Special Boat Unit to the Provincial Police Office in Palawan for custody.
The suspects were visited by the Chinese consul. When asked for comments, the Chinese official refused to give any statement.
Meanwhile, 5 Filipino fishermen who were arrested on Tuesday at the West Philippine Sea with around 70 turtles on board their vessel have already been charged.
They were identified as Romantic Amlain, Pussein Amlain, Arturo Asuncion, Kennedy Kahawy and Hussein Baldosa, all residents of Balabac, Palawan.
They refused to issue any statements.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier defended the arrest of the Chinese fishermen, saying the alleged poaching activity was committed in Philippine waters.
"The seizing of the Chinese fishing boat, carrying large numbers of endangered species, and the apprehension of its crew by the Philippine National Police Maritime Group Special Boat Unit were undertaken as actions to enforce maritime laws and to uphold Philippine sovereign rights over its EEZ," the DFA said in a statement. – From reports by Efraim Canoy, ABS-CBN News Palawan