By Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine immigration officials have made sure the nine Chinese fishermen caught poaching marine turtles in Philippine waters are not going anywhere.
In addition to cases filed against the poachers in an environment court in Palawan province, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday filed charges against them in the justice department for illegal entry and for being undocumented aliens.
“We don’t want these poachers to be out since they entered Philippine territory without proper immigration formalities,” said Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison.
The group actually numbered 11 but two of them were minors and were scheduled to be deported Tuesday night.
The nine are also subject for deportation.
“Their presence in the Philippines poses risk to public interest,” Mison said.
He said the bureau immediately filed the charges against the nine in the Department of Justice since the criminal cases against them in Puerto Princesa City were bailable.
Should the Chinese fishermen post bail, they may be transferred to a BI facility “depending on the discretion of the court in Palawan,” the BI said.
The Chinese fishermen, excluding the two minors, were charged with poaching in Philippine waters, taking endangered species and violating Philippine wildlife laws.
Each of them may post bail of P30,000 for poaching and P40,000 for taking endangered species.
The 11 were caught on May 6 poaching marine turtles off Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, which China claims to be part of its territory.
The nine alleged poachers, earlier held at the Philippine National Police detention headquarters in Puerto Princesa, were later moved to the provincial jail, according to special prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez.
He said that during inquest proceedings on Monday, the Chinese insisted on waiving their right to a counsel.
Thereafter, charges of violation of the fisheries law were filed at the environmental court, or before Regional Trial Court Judge Ambrosio de Luna.
De Luna has yet to schedule their arraignment.
Chinese Embassy officials earlier told prosecutors they would not submit their citizens to the Philippine judicial process, claiming they were arrested in Chinese territory.
Over 500 marine turtles were found in the holding tanks of the Chinese vessels. Some 300 of the turtles had died by the time their vessels reached the Palawan mainland.
The live turtles were later released on Puerto Princesa Bay.
The Chinese government earlier warned the Philippines against prosecuting their nationals, claiming they were in Chinese territory when caught.
Hasa-Hasa is an area in the disputed Spratlys claimed by the two countries.
Those named in the group of the alleged poachers were Chen Yi Quan, Chen Ze Hao, Shi Xian Xiong, Shi Liang Duong, He Zhuang, He Chuan, Huang Ji Xuan, He Sheng Bao, He Yuan Cheng, Lu Chuan Fang and Li Xiang Hui.