Five Vietnamese poachers were apprehended by the 2nd SOU-MG operatives, Friday at the vicinity waters of Barangay Mangsee, Balabac town. (Photo Courtesy of the 2nd SOU-MG)

Maritime law enforcement authorities apprehended five Vietnamese fishermen off Brgy. Mangsee Island, Balabac for illegal entry and poaching of marine products.

The apprehension was made by personnel of the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (2nd SOU-MG) led by P/Capt. Aldin Brogarolas following intensified seaborne patrol operations in the area.

2nd SOU-MG spokesperson P/Capt. Dandy Ferriol said Saturday that apprehended were Phan Van Thiet, skipper of the fishing vessel, and crew members Tran Van Son, Nguyen Van Xil, Thach Van Su, and Nguyen Van Phong.

They will be charged for violating Section 91 of the Republic Act 8550 or “The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998” as amended by R.A. 10654. If found guilty, they will be fined around P1.2. million, he said.

The Vietnamese fishing vessel being held under custody by the maritime police. (Photo courtesy of 2nd SOU-MG)

“Nahuli ‘yong alleged illegal poachers natin sa may bandang karagatan ng Mangsee. Namataan sila ng tropa — noong sisitahin na sila, biglang nagpatakbo ‘yong alleged illegal poachers natin at nagkaroon pa ng habulan. Mga 20 to 30 minutes pang habulan bago successful na-board ‘yong Vietnamese fishing vessel,” Ferriol said.

He said the presence of the Vietnamese fishermen in the waters off Mangsee was first reported to them by concerned citizens.

Ferriol said upon their initial search, the boat captain was unable to show documents on where their vessel is registered.

“They were just floating doon sa seawaters ng Mangsee. Napansin nga ng tropa — kasi kakaiba ‘yong vessel na gamit — hindi siya Filipino vessel. Unang tingin pa lang, halata ng foreign vessel talaga. Immediately, nag-instruct ‘yong team leader nila na magkaroon muna ng interview sa mga crew ng fishing vessel, ‘yon nga lang nagpatakbo ng bangka kaya noong nagkaroon ng habulan, in-impose ng maritime group ‘yong authority kaya huminto nga rin sila,” he said.

“‘Yong mga foreign fishing vessels, particularly itong mga Vietnamese nga, matagal na raw silang umaali-aligid doon kaya nag-order ng intensified patrol operations doon sa area. Doon talaga mag-focus ‘yong seaborne patrol in coordination with the Royal Maritime Police ng Malaysia,” Ferriol added.

Based on initial inventory, the vessel has 50 kilos of sea cucumber, locally known as “balatan”, which they believed were collected around Mangsee.

They also found bottom trawling nets or seines (saludsod), which are pulled across the seafloor, indiscriminately killing fish and bottom-dwelling animals that are important for the ocean food chain.

“Isa ito sa ginagamit ng mangingisda sa pag-fi-fishing nila. Ito po ay destructive kasi kapag isinudsod ito sa seabed, masisira ‘yong marine resources, lalu-lalo na ‘yong corals,” he said.

Ferriol said they will be coordinating with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for the possible filing of charges against the foreign fishermen for violating Section 96 of R.A. 10654.

He added that they have also coordinated with the Provincial Committee on Illegal Entrants (PCIE) because the Vietnamese violated immigration laws when they entered the Philippine territorial waters.

“May meeting kanina ‘yong PCIE, naipabot na namin ‘yong concern namin sa kanila. May BI din doon na representative… gagawa kami ng endorsement papunta sa BI, ifu-furnish namin sila ng copy ng complaint namin para kung may another violation na makita ay masasampahan pa rin ng administrative charges,” Ferriol said.

In September, eight Vietnamese fishermen were also apprehended within the vicinity of Mangsee Island for poaching sharks by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Discovered in their 32-meter fishing vessel were 11 Spotted White Wedgefish, three unknown shark skins, two unknown shark jaws, and three unknown species of ray and a blacktip shark.

In October, they charged the eight Vietnamese for violating poaching under R.A. 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, as amended by R.A. 10654.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), on the other hand,  filed against them cases for violating R.A. 9147, Section 27 (f) that prohibits “collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife, their by-products, and derivatives.” (with a report from Jayra Joyce Taboada)