Puerto Princesa (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Chinese poachers have become bolder and entered the waters of a town in the southernmost tip of Palawan (west Philippines) to harvest coral and catch sea turtles, according to a report by the Philippine Navy on Saturday.
In the report, the Navy said Chinese poachers, using smaller boats launched from a mother ship, penetrated the municipal waters of Balabac, a town in Palawan's southernmost tip.
The intrusion took place at the height of the encroachment by a fleet of at least 20 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese gunboats into waters just 9 kilometres off Pag-asa Island, where the Philippine municipality of Kalayaan is located.
The Navy report said the Chinese poachers used nets to catch endangered sea turtles.
It said the Navy had rescued 14 of the sea turtles that had been caught in nets laid by the Chinese poachers on July 13 near the island of Catagupan, Balabac.
The island is located at the tip of the Balabac Islands dotting the Balabac Strait, a navigation route shared by the Philippines with its Southeast Asian neighbour Malaysia.
The report quoted residents of Balabac as saying the Chinese poachers, allegedly with the help of local contacts, arrived in the area aboard a speed boat and laid out the nets.
A tip from a local resident prompted government authorities to investigate the intrusion which led to the discovery of a 200-metre long net laid out by the poachers.
Maj. Fernando Atos, commanding officer of the Naval Station Narciso del Rosario in Balabac, said in the statement that "one sea turtle was already dead when a joint team from the Navy and the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] arrived in the remote area off the western island of Palawan."
"They entered the coastal district of Balabac riding a speedboat using their contacts (as guides) among the locals," Atos said.
The report did not identify the locals who allegedly assisted the foreign poachers.
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