A Chinese fishing boat that got stuck on April 8 at the Philippines’ Tubbataha reef was removed on Friday, April 19, the Coast Guard reported. The 48-meter boat was towed off by a tugboat from the UNESCO World Heritage protected site near Palawan where they’ll face grave charges for poaching.
Lt. G. Jude told AFP that the boat’s hull wasn’t damaged and okay to tow it. Said fishing boat was towed to Palawan capital of Puerto Princesa where its 12 Chinese Crew were arraigned on Friday, said a spokeswoman.
The fishermen crew were charged for poaching, and during the hearing, they said they’re not guilty. Their lawyer Alex Jagmiz asked for more time to prepare his case.
Corruption charge have been filed earlier by authorities against the crew for trying to bribe their way to freedom by offering wads of money.
Poaching in the marine reserve as a charge against the Chinese fishermen was aggravated when authorities discovered in the hold of their boat hundreds of dead pangolins or anteaters, a protected species.
Environmental legal officer Adelina Villena said pangolin poachers could be jailed for 12 to 20 years.
Pangolins are hunted in Asia for their meat, skin and scales, In China, they are considered a delicacy and believed to contain medicinal qualities. In the Philippines, they are found nowhere but only in Palawan.
The World Wide Fund for Nature condemned the poaching of pangolins, saying that growing demand in China was wiping out the animal in Southeast Asia.