Palawan council wants tougher penalties for foreign poachers

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development is seeking tougher penalties for foreign poachers that raid Philippine waters for marine resources.

From March 1995 to April 2013, the PCSD had recorded 91 foreign poaching incidents in the waters of Palawan, apprehending a total of 1,129 foreign poachers.

Although all these offenders have served jail time, Adelina Villena, PCSD legal officer, told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Thursday that they were subsequently released due to plea-bargaining or by posting bail.

“We strongly oppose plea-bargaining,” Villena complained. “The full force of the law is not really applied. Plus the value of illegally collected resources could far outweigh the risk that they face if caught by authorities.”

Out of the thousand offenders, only 24 poachers are currently serving jail time. The number includes the 12 Chinese fishermen caught poaching in the protected waters of Tubbataha Reef last April, and 12 Vietnamese caught illegally fishing Palawan waters.

The usual cases filed against these foreign poachers are violations of Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, which carries a fine of $50,000 to $200,000.

Poaching incidents

According to the PCSD data, dominating the list of foreign poachers caught in the Philippines were Chinese nationals representing 56 percent or 629 of foreign poachers.

The Vietnamese followed at 27 percent or 305 illegal fishermen, and Malaysians with 13 percent or 147 poachers.

Usually, marine turtles are the targets of these poachers PCSD’s Villena said citing the commercial demand for sea turtles.

Out of the 91 poaching incidents posted by PCSD, about two-thirds or 62 instances have occurred in the municipal waters of Balabac town, at the southern end of Palawan.

The PCSD arrested the most number of foreign poachers in 2002, when 174 Chinese nationals caught. — DVM, GMA News


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