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  • » 06/10/2015, 00.00


    Manila releases Chinese fishermen arrested for poaching

    A Philippine court has ordered the release of nine fishermen sentenced to one year in prison. In May 2014 they had caught - in disputed waters - more than 550 giant turtles, a protected species in the archipelago. Their arrest further strained already tense relations between Manila and Beijing over disputed seas.

    Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Philippine court has ordered the release of nine Chinese fishermen, who have spent the last year in a prison for "poaching hundreds of giant tortoises", a protected species in archipelago. The arrest in May 2014, took place in a disputed area of ​​the South China Sea, which is the subject of a territorial standoff between Manila, Hanoi and Beijing that have converging interests in the area.

    Yesterday Palawan Regional Court Judge Ambrosio de Luna, ordered the release after the fishermen's lawyer had filed a new application. The nine fishermen were freed after serving six months of the sentence. The prosecutor did not want to oppose the judge's decision.

    At this time the group of nine fishermen are still in the custody of Philippine immigration authorities in Palawan, waiting for the Chinese consulate to follow formalities and then they will proceed with their repatriation. Their arrest dates back to May 6 last year at Half Moon Shoal, where they were surprised by the Philippine Navy, carrying at least 555 specimens of protected species.

    Their arrest further increased tensions between the Philippines and China in the Asia-Pacific seas.  In fact the dispute is still in progress and seems to be constantly threatening to spill over onto the international stage. Beijing has lobbied hard for the release of the fishermen and their vessel, claiming they were arrested in Chinese waters.

    At the time of detention in Beijing he had issued a warning to the Philippines, telling them not to commit "provoking acts, in order to avoid damaging bilateral relations in the future."

    The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas.

    The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. In recent months, China has used various political, economic and diplomatic means to hamper non-Chinese vessels from fishing or moving through the disputed waters.  

    For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational".

    Anyone with a hegemonic sway over the region would have a strategic advantage, in terms of seabed (oil and gas) development, but also in trade since two thirds of the world's maritime trade transit through it, estimated to be worth 5 billion dollars.

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    See also

    15/04/2015 PHILIPPINES - CHINA
    Philippine president: Beijing’s imperialism on the seas may trigger a military conflict
    Benigno Aquino says international governments "should be concerned" about Beijing's policy in the South China Sea. He does not rule out "the possibility of an escalation," which would have serious consequences. The projects to build artificial islands confirm China’s aggressive policy.

    24/11/2014 PHILIPPINES - CHINA - US
    South China Sea: Beijing builds a new island, with naval and air base
    According to US sources, China is building a fourth island in the Spratly. Washington asks for a halt to the project and calls for "diplomatic initiatives" to release the tension. Philippine court sentences nine Chinese fishermen for poaching in its territorial waters. They risked up to 20 years in prison, but will have to pay a fine of 103 thousand dollars.

    South China Sea, Bishop of Manila: U.S. attitude worsens situation
    Bishop Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary of the capital, intervenes in territorial disputes and attacks the United States for "meddling" in the dispute. The prelate calls for a frank and open dialogue between China and the Philippines, to reach an agreement that averts the use of violence. Meanwhile, Indonesia strengthens its military against Chinese maneuvers.

    18/09/2013 PHILIPPINES - U.S. - CHINA
    South China Sea, Manila and Washington play at war, against Beijing
    For three weeks, the U.S. and Philippine navy ships will carry out military exercises in the area, at the center of a bitter territorial dispute . 2,300 Marines involved. The goal is to strengthen military ties in an anti – Chinese pact. Anticipation for visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.

    05/01/2016 VIETNAM - CHINA
    South China Sea: Vietnamese fishermen attacked by Chinese ships
    In 2015 tens of thousands of fishermen have been victims of the "red empire". Beijing’s navy threaten and sink vessels. Hanoi slams an "inhuman and aggressive" attitude. The last incident occurred on January 1. Beijing pursues "imperialist" policy in spite of the protests of Vietnam and the Philippines.

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