The fishing vessel was initially moored in front of the ranger station before it was subsequently transported to Puerto Princesa for prosecution. (Photo by John Cabiles)

The management office of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) filed charges in court against four fishermen who were apprehended by marine park rangers on June 13 for violating the protected waters.

In her Mama Ranger post early Tuesday morning, June 14, Angelique Songco, head of the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), said that the four fishermen were apprehended after they were spotted fishing in Jessie Beazley Reef by park rangers.

The report about their suspicious presence came from Rhey Fejer, the chief mate of M/Y Stella Maris, according to Songco.

No further information was given by Songco regarding the fishermen’s origin or their identities.

“The four fishers were arrested, their boat, catch, and other paraphernalia seized, and the lot brought to Puerto Princesa for the filing of criminal charges. These incidents involve fear and tears on their part, a lot of resentment, sympathy, and paperwork on ours,” she said.

“While filing the cases at the fiscal’s office at 8 p.m., I thought of how peaceful and carefree yesterday was before this happened. I reenacted the previous day’s activities – diving at Shark Airport with donors and friends, fish galore, strong currents, cold water, and soft corals with horrible hair days. There was a lot of banter, singing, and laughter. And then came the sad news – illegal fishers!” she added.

Songco said the fishermen were turned over to the Palawan Provincial Police Office (PPPO) for custody.

In a phone call with Palawan News, Police Major Ric Ramos said they were not directly involved in the apprehension of the four fishermen.

However, he explained that the police were prepared to take custody of the individuals since the TMO does not have a detention facility.

“Hinold lang namin ang custody kasi walang detention facility and Tubbataha,” he said.

Fishing in Tubbataha is strictly prohibited due to the park’s protected status and the importance of preserving its unique marine ecosystem.

It is home to a diverse array of marine species, including endangered and vulnerable ones. The ban on fishing helps safeguard the fragile balance of the ecosystem and protects the rich biodiversity found in the park.

The marine park is a World Heritage Site.