Maritime authorities have filed charges against 16 Filipino fishermen who were caught onboard two Malaysian vessels for poaching in Philippine waters and fishing using illegal compressor tanks.
Charges were also filed against two individuals for violating the customs enforcement on imported petroleum products.
All individuals were apprehended in the morning and afternoon of March 6 in Balabac town by personnel of the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (2nd SOU-MG) conducting seaborne patrol operations along the Philippine-Malaysian border, according to its commander, P/Lt. Col. Ricardo Dalmacia.
They are facing charges for violating Section 91 of Republic Act (RA) 10654, which amended RA 8550, otherwise known as “The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998”, and Palawan Provincial Ordinance No. 1643, which bans the use of compressors in fishing.
He claimed that the 16 Filipino fishermen were employed as workers for two Malaysian-registered fishing vessels. They were apprehended on March 6 near Fearless Shoal in Balabac.
Found in their possession were a compressor tank with a 600-meter breathing hose attached, diving masks, pairs of diving fins, 25 kilos of fresh fish, fish cages, and other paraphernalia.
Dalmacia said his personnel first apprehended Rey Rulete, 39; Junjun Salayao, 37; Robert Mag-aso, 33; Percy Tatall, 39; Romeo Ompad Jr. 27; Jeorgen Pelayo, 42; Joel Amorin, 45; Momoy Sarail, 38; and Rey Ado, aboard MV KT4335/3F, followed by Pedrito Taala Jr., 37; Frederick Saban Jr., 18; Samson Jr. Vizon, 31; Joseph Taala, 43; Alido Muli; Alvin Royo, 38; Rodrigo Daulong Jr., 33; and Mohd Khairul Adzman Ismael, 20, aboard MV KT73/3F.
He said they are from Balabac, Bataraza, Narra, Taytay, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan, and Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga del Norte, Cebu City, and Tawi-Tawi.
The two smugglers who were apprehended on the same day with seven drums of gasoline were Jeffry Bunjungan Sailama 23, and Frank Hj. Minula Abdullah. He said they sell the gasoline to fishermen in Balabac.
“Sila ang mga nagsusuplay sa mga maliliit na mga magigisda doon sa lugar, na ginagamit din sa pag-i-illegal fishing katulad ng bumbong (dynamite fishing),” said Dalmacia.
WESCOM, PNP directive
Dalmacia said their nearly two-week seaborne patrol operation along the Philippine-Malaysian border was a directive from Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, the commander of the Western Command (WESCOM) and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief P/Gen. Dionardo Carlos through PNP Maritime Group director P/Brig. Gen. Harold Tuazon.
The purpose, he explained, is to track reported unlawful activities such as prohibited entry of foreign fishermen for poaching within Philippine waters, illegal fishing of local fishermen, and petroleum product smuggling, a long-standing issue in the area that impacts the country’s economy.
“Dati kapag nakakahuli kami ng mga local fisherfolks ay lagi kaming sinasabihan, ‘bakit hindi niyo hinuhuli ang mga foreign vessels na pumapasok?’ Kaya ngayon, although ang supply ay limited, ang resources are limited, we have to make sure na ma-implement natin ang batas natin,” Dalmacia said.
“’Yung smuggling ng mga goods coming from other country, contrabands, sigarilyo, itong mga fuel, they need to pay taxes sa government para ma-legalize sila pero hindi nila ginagawa,” he added.
Dalmacia said beefing up their presence in Balabac, and along the border with the Philippine Navy (PN), is also aimed at ensuring no armed groups will enter to disrupt Palawan’s peace and security.