PALAWAN - The Court of Appeals (CA) acquitted the 12 Chinese fishermen who were caught poaching in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park last April 2013.
This was confirmed by Superintendent Resurreccion Puno, officer-in-charge of Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF), where the fishermen served their sentence.
According to Puno, they received the order from the director of the Bureau of Corrections, which stated that the 12 fishermen should be released after the decision made in the Court.
The fishermen were brought to the holding area of the IPPF while waiting for the Bureau of Immigration.
Meanwhile, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) said they will respect the decision of the court, reiterating that they exerted effort to make the 12 fishermen responsible for their deed.
Environmentalists, however, expressed their disappointment over the decision.
The vessel used by the Chinese fishermen ran aground in Tubbataha Reef in April 2013. Park rangers confiscated hundreds of boxes from the vessel containing the Philippine pangolin or balintong.
The fishermen also tried to offer money to park rangers in exchange for their release.
The Regional Trial Court Branch 51 sentenced the fishermen to imprisonment from six to ten years while the boat captain was meted with a penalty of 12 years imprisonment.
They were charged with the violation of Section 27 or Poaching by Foreigners of the RA 10067 of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009.
The Court also ordered each of the convicted poachers to pay a $100,000 fine.
The 12 Chinese fishermen were identified as Che Li Yong; Fan Lenl Tie; Xuan Ven Fe; Wang Yu Zhen; Lizhong Sheng; Lizhiming; Liu Cheng Tie; Liu Wen Jie; Tung Zhue We; Tang Hai Liny; Wen Hong Min; Qi Vixn.