MANILA - The country’s top environmental lawyer on Monday said Chinese poachers who killed hundreds of endangered marine turtles in waters off Palawan should not be given bail because of their refusal to submit to the Philippine justice system.
Lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr, who won the landmark 2010 Supreme Court “Writ of Kalikasan” decision, is one of the authors of a petition on Change.org, pushing for the prosecution of Chinese poachers and which has drawn 17,000 people signatures from the Philippines and around the world.
The petition also lauds the Philippine National Police Maritime Group Special Boat Unit for seizing the Chinese fishing boat and its crew. The poachers, arrested off Half Moon (Hasa-hasa) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, had captured 500 marine turtles. They pierced the eyes of many turtles so they could insert ties to prevent the animals’ escape.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said the government will proceed with the trial of the 11 Chinese poachers arrested off Half Moon Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, even if the suspects refuse to recognize Philippine jurisdiction over a protected marine park
Oposa welcomed De Lima’s statement. But in a telephone conversation with Change.org Philippines, the lawyer said the poachers must be kept behind bars until resolution of the criminal charges filed against them. The suspects are accused of poaching and catching endangered species.
“They will not even submit to our justice system,” Oposa noted.
The petitioners say they are standing by the government of President Benigno Aquino III “in this battle to uphold the country's right to protected our Philippine Seas.”
Environmentalists started the petition to prod the government to stop giving poachers from China and other countries a free pass -- deportation, which was a traditional practice in the past administration.
“This has been taken as a sign of weakness by the foreign nationals who continue to intrude into our territorial waters and capture endangered species,” the petitioners said. “That time is over.”