Philippine police to charge 11 Chinese fishermen with illegal entry

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will charge 11 crewmen of a Chinese fishing boat with illegal entry after it seized the vessel off Half Moon Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

PNP chief Director-General Alan Purisima said in a news conference on Thursday that the boat was found 106 km from Rizal town in Palawan province, well within the Philippines' so-called exclusive economic zone.

Asked to react on China's demand that the 11 crewmen be released, General Purisima replied: "That is their statement. Our statement is that they were inside our territory."

He said the PNP has referred the case to the National Committee on Illegal Entrants, and it is also considering filing poaching charges against the 11 men now in its custody in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas, head of the PNP Maritime Group, said over 400 sea turtles were found on board the seized Chinese boat, half already dead.

He said his operatives stumbled into the Chinese boat by accident after tailing a local fishing boat with a crew of five that they had suspected of smuggling endangered wildlife.

Chief Supt Vargas told reporters that at around 9am on Tuesday, the local fishing boat was seen docking next to the Chinese boat and unloaded the sea turtles.

That was when men from the PNP Maritime Group moved in, he said.

He admitted that his men were able to apprehend the Chinese boat only because it had a broken rudder.

Chief Supt Vargas denied an earlier report that said there was another Chinese boat that managed to flee.