Chinese poachers convicted in the Philippines 'to be deported once fines are paid'

A group of Chinese fishermen leave a court in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island on Nov 24, 2014, after they were found guilty of poaching. Nine Chinese fishermen convicted this week of poaching by a Philippine court will be released and deported o
A group of Chinese fishermen leave a court in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island on Nov 24, 2014, after they were found guilty of poaching. Nine Chinese fishermen convicted this week of poaching by a Philippine court will be released and deported once they manage to pay fines of over US$100,000 (S$125,030) each, President Benigno Aquino's communications minister said. -- PHOTO: AFP

NINE Chinese fishermen convicted this week of poaching by a Philippine court will be released and deported once they manage to pay fines of over US$100,000 (S$125,030) each, President Benigno Aquino's communications minister said.

"Upon payment of the fines, they are deemed to have served the penalty fully, and there is no further impediment for them to leave the country," the minister, Mr Herminio Coloma, said in a news briefing on Thursday.

He said the nine have already served time in jail, and there is no need to detain them further.

A court in Palawan province where the fishermen are being held on Monday fined each of the men US$100,000 for poaching and another US$2,730 for trafficking in endangered marine life.

Beijing had demanded the release of the nine fishermen, saying the sentence violated Chinese sovereignty.

"The Philippines has illegally detained Chinese fisherman and made so-called judicial convictions, these actions have violated China's sovereignty," Ms Hua Chunying, a spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Tuesday.

Philippine border officials arrested in May this year the nine fishermen and seized their boat, laden with marine turtles and other endangered species, off Half Moon shoal that the Philippines said is within its 200-mile "exclusive economic zone".

China maintains the nine were seized within its waters.

rdancel@sph.com.sg