Palace on arrest of Chinese fishermen: Gov't just enforcing laws

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

MALACANANG on Thursday defended the arrest of 11 Chinese fishermen off Palawan, saying the Philippine National Police (PNP) was just enforcing the country's laws.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also said that the action being taken by the government was not in any way trying to provoke China.

"The action taken by the Philippine National Police in apprehending a foreign fishing vessel and a local fishing boat is in accordance with its duty to enforce environmental protection and wildlife conservation laws while upholding Philippine sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone," he said in a regular press briefing.

Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, whose office has jurisdiction over the PNP, echoed Malacanang's statement as he denied that the arrests were motivated by the ongoing territorial row of the two countries.

"Kahit ano pa ang lahi, Pinoy o hindi, mahuhuli 'yan," Roxas said in an ambush interview during the Metro Manila Flood Summit Thursday.

He said the maritime police were just doing their job, which is to promote safety and to protect the endangered species.

Aside from the arrest of 11 fishermen and confiscation of their ship, the police also nabbed five Filipino fishermen and their boat at the Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon) off Palawan province last Tuesday.

Maritime police found nearly 400 live sea turtles aboard the 15-ton Chinese ship and 70 live sea turtles on the local fishing boat.

China warned the Philippines not to take provocative action while demanding the release of its nationals as well as their vessel.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday accused the Philippine government of taking "pre-meditated" actions against its citizens.

In a statement, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Hua Zhang said they believe that the arrests were made by the PNP – Maritime Group Special Boat Unit in a deliberate attempt to escalate tensions in the disputed waters anew.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, including the Banyue Reef. This provocative action is pre-meditated in an attempt to create tensions, and severely violates China's sovereignty and maritime rights," said Hua.

The Chinese Embassy, then, echoed China's foreign ministry in urging the Philippines to release the boat and its crew immediately while guaranteeing the safety of the crew and their property.

He said the Embassy has already lodged solemn representations to the Philippine side regarding the status of the Chinese fishing boat and its 11 crew members.

Hua also said China is warning the Philippines in making another provocative action in the disputed territories.

"The Chinese side warns the Philippine side not to take provocative actions, so as to avoid further damage to the bilateral relations," said Hua.

Hasa-Hasa Shoal is 100 kilometers off Balabac town in Palawan, well within the Philippines' 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, according to government authorities.

China, on the other hand, claims that this area is part of its territory.

Manila and Beijing are engaged in a tensed territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (SDR/John Carlo Cahinhinan/HDT/Sunnex)

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