China tells fishermen, PH gov’t: Abide by laws
MANILA, Philippines – While urging its poachers to continue their normal fishing activities, China also asked them to “abide by laws.” It was not clear, however, whose or which laws it was referring to.
“Ever since the Chinese fishermen were arrested in Philippine waters last April, China has been urging the Philippine side to impartially handle the case in accordance with law and ensure the legitimate rights and interests and humanitarian treatment of the Chinese fishermen,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement posted on their website Thursday.
“Meanwhile, we hope that Chinese fishermen working at the sea can abide by laws and carry out normal fishery production,” she said.
She issued this statement two days after 12 Chinese fishermen were convicted by a Palawan court. She also asked the Philippines to be fair to the poachers.
The fishermen were apprehended in 2013 after their boat ran aground on the Tubbataha reef in the Sulu Sea.
The captain was sentenced to 12 years while the rest of the crew were given six to 10 years. The court also imposed a fine of $100,000.
They were allegedly on their way back to China from Indonesia when bad weather was allegedly the reason they sought shelter at the reef. They claimed they did not know they were in Philippine territory.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained that the verdict followed Philippine laws.
“The [Sulu Sea] where these Chinese fishermen were apprehended in April 2013 is part of the Philippines’ internal waters where it has exclusive sovereignty,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement following the handing of the verdict Tuesday.
Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the South China Sea which China claims more than 90 percent of through its 9-dash-line claim.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after the April 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff where Philippine authorities were blocked from apprehending Chinese fishermen found poaching endemic Philippine marine species in the shoal.