China demands release of 9 Sino fishermen who have served time
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The Chinese government on Friday sought the immediate release of nine Chinese fishermen who have already served their six-month prison term for poaching in the Philippine-claimed Hasa-Hasa Shoal in May last year.
Provincial Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez told the Inquirer that a ranking official of the Chinese embassy met with lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in Palawan, which handled the legal defense for their nationals, to ask government lawyers to demand the release of the Chinese detainees. Their six-month penalty lapsed on Thursday.
“We have yet to receive an order from the court (for the release of the Chinese nationals),” he said.
Although represented by the PAO, the Chinese nationals had questioned the jurisdiction of the Philippines over Hasa-Hasa Shoal.
They were eventually convicted by Palawan trial court Judge Ambrosio De Luna for poaching, a violation of the Philippine Fisheries Code.
Upon conviction, they declined to pay the fine of $100,000 and opted instead to serve a subsidiary imprisonment term for six months.
The Chinese nationals were caught by a Philippine National Police Maritime patrol off Hasa-Hasa Shoal with their vessel loaded with about 500 dead and dying endangered marine turtles.
Rodriguez said the release of the Chinese nationals will be upon the order of the presiding judge of the Palawan Regional Trial Court Branch 51.
Hasa-Hasa shoal is part of Palawan’s Kalayaan municipality, which is also being claimed by China.
China had protested the arrest and conviction of its nationals, insisting that they were taken while inside Chinese territory.