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DFA lauds guilty verdict on 12 Chinese poachers in Tubbataha

August 5, 2014 8:07pm
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday expressed support for the guilty verdict handed down by a local court on 12 Chinese poachers, saying the decision was “based on applicable Philippine laws.”

A court in Puerto Princesa, Palawan sentenced the men to jail for six to 12 years for illegal fishing of endangered species on Philippine waters, specifically in Tubattaha Reef – a United Nations world heritage site.
"The place where these Chinese fishermen were apprehended in April 2013 is part of the Philippines' internal waters where it has exclusive sovereignty,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement.
The fishermen were also ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.
They claimed to have taken shelter at the reef due to inclement weather and said they did not know that the reef wax within Philippine territory.
The court decision is likely to fuel tensions between Manila and China, which are locked in years-long territorial rivalry over parts of the resource-rich South China Sea.
China claims almost 90 percent of the waters, including those within Philippine territory.
The Philippines challenged China’s claims before a Netherlands-based tribunal to try to declare its assertions invalid and illegal.
A defiant China said it had the right to build what it wanted in South China Sea features, citing indisputable and sovereign claim over them.
Jose said the Philippines would push for an initiative on a three-step package of actions to resolve the disputes. The proposal includes a moratorium on construction in the contested waters.
Manila’s Triple Action Plan or TAP, consolidates solutions which have been declared in the past by the Philippines and the ASEAN.

It also calls for the full implementation of a non-binding non-aggression pact in the South China Sea and the formulation of a code of conduct and legal arbitration.
"We will continue to raise our TAP proposal at the coming AMM and related meetings in Myanmar in order to manage tensions in the area for the sake of regional peace and stability,” Jose said, referring to the annual ASEAN ministerial meetings on August 8 to 10.

Top diplomats from the Association of South East Asian Nations, the United States, Japan, China and Australia are expected to attend the meetings.
Vietnam, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and China are competing for ownership over territories in the South China Sea, which are believed to be sitting atop rich oil and gas reserves.

It is one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is the shortest route from the North Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean.
China is likely to reject the Philippine proposal because it contains steps Beijing has dismissed in the past.
“We believe that our framework proposal is positive, constructive and comprehensive, and will be beneficial to everyone in the region, including China,” Jose said. —NB, GMA News
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