An anti-poaching unit in the Philippines reprimanded Thursday government authorities for being lax in handling foreign poachers, warning that continued granting of amnesty to convicted poachers will encourage more poaching activities in Philippine waters.
Adelina Villena of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development -- a government agency tasked with protecting wildlife and endangered species in the Philippines' western waters -- has raised the issue, with her office demanding the prosecution of 13 Vietnamese nationals caught poaching on Oct. 18 in the municipality of Balabac in Palawan province.
In the latest incident, 294 hawksbill turtles, a critically endangered species, were found in the fishermen's Malaysian-registered fishing vessel, on top of various species of fish and shells.
Villena noted that at least two of the arrested 13 Vietnamese were among 122 Vietnamese poachers caught aboard seven vessels in Balabac in May 2011.
Although the fishermen were convicted, with the court imposing a fine of $700,000 and handing over the vessels to the Philippine Navy and the provincial government of Palawan, Manila waived the fine and returned the vessels to Vietnam "as a sign of goodwill," Villena said.
"The abovementioned situation is certainly encouraging whoever masterminds the sending of Vietnamese fishermen to fish and take the critically endangered species in Philippine waters," she said, adding that the risk of being caught and prosecuted is outweighed by profit incentive.
In an earlier interview with Kyodo News, Villena said the Philippine government only imposed a fine of $100,000 on Chinese poachers involved in six separate incidents instead of demanding a fine for each incident. More....