Camp Guillermo Nakar, Lucena City – Foreign poachers sometimes go deep inside Philippine territory to catch fish and other wildlife in an area known for marine biodiversity, a military official revealed.

Lieutenant Gen. Roland Detabali, head of the Armed Forces’ Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said there have been instances when poachers were monitored going as far as Romblon.

“Minsan may poachers, naka-base sa Palawan ang mother boat then papasok gamit ang maliliit na boat sa Romblon,” Detabali told reporters in a briefing at the Solcom headquarters here.

Authorities in the area, however, cannot catch the poachers because of “limited naval assets,” he said.

“Tatakbo na lang sila (poachers), di na mahahabol, sayang ang natural resources,” Detabali said.

It was the first time for the military to reveal that foreign poachers venture deep inside the Philippines’ territorial waters.

Previously, foreign poachers were sighted and sometimes, captured, only in waters off Palawan and Mindanao where there are disputed territories and international boundaries.

The Philippines is presently battling – diplomatically – with China over ownership of Scarborough Shoal near Zambales after a Navy ship tried to arrest Chinese poachers there last April.

Romblon, along with Cavite, Batangas, Marinduque, and Oriental Mindoro, form the boundaries of the Verde Island Passage, which scientists regard as the “center of the center” of marine biodiversity in the world.

The title was given after a 2005 study showed that Verde Island Passage is home to more than 300 species of corals, hundreds of species of fish, and several species of turtles, dolphins, giant clams, and whale sharks.

Detabali said the military is now coordinating with local government units and non-government organizations to protect the area. (John Roson)

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