Tag Archive: poaching

Outgoing Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said additional troops have been deployed to Batanes to help prevent intrusions, and suggested that a naval base be built there.

“The next na kailangan i-develop natin, maghanap tayo ng magandang naval base, o i-develop natin na naval base, dun sa Batanes,” Catapang said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

The military chief said he has already told the Navy about the plan, which should be implemented after building the naval base in Oyster Bay, Palawan.

The base being built in Oyster Bay is envisioned to guard against intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, where China is reclaiming and building structures on reefs. The planned facility in Batanes should guard against poachers, usually from Taiwan.

“I think this year they will ask for funding,” Catapang said.

Catapang made the remarks as he revealed that an additional platoon of Navy personnel have been sent to Batanes, where Filipino and Taiwanese coast guard members recently figured in standoffs.

“It’s the marching order of the President to also look into that area,” he said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Milan, for his part, said forces in Batanes were increased “to secure mission-essential facilities being used for monitoring activities in the maritime domain.”

Navy personnel there are also tasked to plan for “improvements,” including the development of areas where boats can be docked, Millan told reporters by phone.

According to Millan, the Navy currently has no base in Batanes and sailors assigned there are only staying at offices of other government agencies.

Meanwhile, the Navy chief said more sailors were also deployed to Zambales and other “strategic areas” around the country to prevent the entry of poachers.

“Increasing ang poaching activities so we need to improve on our system and procedures… Ang problema lang, wala nga tayong pera to support the modernization of facilities,” he said. (John Roson)

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Taiwan's cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

Taiwan’s cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship launched speedboats and threatened to shoot a Philippine patrol vessel during their standoff over an apprehended fishing boat in waters near Batanes last week, a security official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the incident as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the standoff.

“There came a point na ang sabi nila (Taiwan Coast Guard), ‘Stop, or we will shoot you. Release the boat,'” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

That incident occurred inside the “contiguous zone” of the Philippines, the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo confirmed the standoff, saying it occurred 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes last May 25.

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines' Official Gazette website)

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines’ Official Gazette website)

It involved PCG members on a Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) and the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter number 118, he said.

The standoff began when Coast Guard personnel apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6 around 6:25 p.m., Balilo said.

“The PCG was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard cutter 118 appeared and blocked the BFAR vessel and asked for the release of the fishing boat,” Balilo said.

Members of the PCG later released the fishing boat as per instruction by BFAR officers, after “four hours of negotiation” with the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter’s crew, he said.

The source, for his part, said things did not go as smoothly because Taiwan’s Coast Guard made several aggressive attempts to have the fishing boat released.

The cutter, according to the official, launched two speedboats in an apparent attempt to board the fishing boat and wrest it from Filipino law enforcers.

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

Taiwan’s ship also suddenly “cut” the path of the BFAR MCS-3004 vessel, risking a collision, he said.

A collision would have proven dangerous for the MCS-3004, which is only about 30 meters long as compared to the 63.5-meter Taiwanese cutter, according to the source.

That prompted the MCS-3004 to maneuver away and it went on sailing with the fishing boat in tow, until the cutter made the threat to shoot, the source said.

Only two Philippine Coast Guard members on the vessel had firearms at the time while the cutter, because of its size, is believed to be packing heavy weapons.

“They were outnumbered, outgunned, overpowered… Considering their predicament, ni-release na lang ‘yung fishing boat instead na may mapahamak,” the official said.

The source, meanwhile, revealed that a second incident involving another Taiwan Coast Guard ship occurred on May 28.

This occurred some 12 nautical miles from Batanes’ northernmost Amianan Island which is well within Philippine territory, he said.

The Taiwan Coast Guard ship appeared after PCG personnel drove away another Taiwanese fishing vessel, the source said.

Jovita Ayson, director of BFAR Region 2, said her office is now preparing reports on the incidents and will submit these to BFAR administrator Asis Perez.

Perez, in a text message, said he is out of the country and is still waiting for the reports.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR will continue patrolling waters off Batanes despite the incidents to “deter” foreign poachers, Ayson said. (John Roson)

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Foreign poachers are still conducting activities in the Philippines’ northern seas and are now even going closer to the islands of Batanes, officials said Saturday.

“Many of these are Taiwanese fishing boats. Actually they even get near the islands, particularly Itbayat,” Milagros Morales, assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-2 (BFAR-2), said by phone.

“Hindi naman kasing dami as in the past, but they are still there, still visible,” she added.

Morales made the remarks when asked on the status of poaching activities in the Balintang Channel, which borders the Philippines and Taiwan.

Aside from Taiwanese, local fishermen are also reporting sightings of Vietnamese and Chinese poachers, Batanes provincial fisheries officer Angel Encarnacion said in a separate phone interview.

“We don’t know how many there are, but poachers are still coming in even after we arrested one last year,” Encarnacion said, referring to the arrest of Taiwanese Tsai Po off Itbayat on September 3, 2013.

Boats that usually go near the islands are those that catch fish and other marine animals, which are later unloaded to a “mother” vessel lurking far away, he said.

“Local fishermen are reporting the sightings and some have even expressed willingness to go after the poachers, but we remind them not to because we have diplomatic arrangements with Taiwan,” Encarnacion added.

Presently, only one BFAR vessel – manned by Coast Guard members – is patrolling the country’s northern seas.

“Poachers would usually keep out of sight when the vessel patrols and then come back when it’s away,” Morales said.

She said patrols by the BFAR and Coast Guard are still continuing despite “constraining” effects of another incident, where eight Coast Guard personnel were charged homicide after shooting a Taiwanese poacher who intruded Philippine waters on May 9, 2013.

“Dahil sa kaso natin last year, parang helpless tayo, hindi tayo masyadong makagalaw… We have to do it (patrols) because if we will just leave them (poachers) to it, parang nakakasakit naman sa loob na nandiyan lang sila at wala tayong magawa,” she said.

Also because of continuous poaching, the BFAR ordered the construction of a customized boat that would help its vessel conduct patrols, Encarnacion said.

The boat, worth about P1 million, is being fashioned after Taiwanese fishing boats to withstand rough sea conditions in the Balintang Channel and is expected to be launched in June, he said.

The provincial fisheries office also gave a local fishermen’s association another boat, binoculars, navigational equipment, and communication devices so they can help monitor poachers, Encarnacion said.

“We are doing this while waiting for the multi-mission vessels that the national [BFAR] office will send to Batanes,” Encarnacion said.

BFAR director Asis Perez announced earlier this year that the bureau will acquire more than 40 units of 30-footer and 40-footer multi-mission vessels to strengthen visibility and patrols in different parts of the country. (John Roson)

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Anguib Beach. Touted as Cagayan's version of Boracay with its powdery white sand and clear waters.

Anguib Beach. Touted as Cagayan’s version of Boracay with its powdery white sand and clear waters.

Santa Ana, Cagayan – The prospect of hosting American troops is slowly getting known in this once-sleepy northern town, and hopes are high that such an event would give the growing local tourism industry a further boost.

Santa Ana has not been mentioned before as one of the areas eyed for U.S. troop activities under the newly-signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin hinted that the town is among those that are being considered.

“This still to be agreed upon,” Gazmin said in a mobile-phone message.

American troop presence here is seen as advantageous for the ill-equipped Philippine military, which already has its hands full with China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea and also has to check the entry of Chinese and Taiwanese poachers in the north.

Located in the north-eastern tip of Luzon Island, Santa Ana hosts the Naval Base Camilo Osias, which has an airfield that can accommodate military aircraft like C-130 planes.

The base also has a harbor on the Babuyan Channel that links the West Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean, where the Benham Rise – another Philippine territory in need of protection – is located.

Local officials confirmed learning of the possible hosting of U.S. troops but asked not to be named in reports, saying the national government is the one handling the matter.

“Some Americans arrived here recently to make an inspection,” one said.


Patrolers. The Navy gunboat BRP Hilario Ruiz and a BFAR surveillance vessel tasked to patrol the northern seas, docked at Santa Ana's port.

Patrolers. The Navy gunboat BRP Hilario Ruiz and a BFAR surveillance vessel tasked to patrol the northern seas, docked at Santa Ana’s port.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, the Armed Forces’ civil relations officer for Northern Luzon, declined to comment on the possible U.S. troop visits but admitted the need to beef up security in the northern territories.

Only two vessels, a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship manned by Coast Guard personnel and a Navy gunboat, are stationed here to patrol the seas up to the Batanes group of islands bordering Taiwan.

Awareness of the country’s northern territories is also still “not that good,” exposing these to encroachment by foreign poachers, Garcia said.

“We are not still that aware of our northern territories, even myself, I don’t know what’s happening there now. Especially in the seven uninhabited islands of Batanes,” he said after launching a dragon boat race with local officials here Friday.

The boat race, participated by soldiers, will be followed by similar activities and tourism campaigns in Batanes to raise that awareness, Garcia said.

Charlotte Collado, public affairs officer at the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), said they welcome the possible entry of US troops and hope to benefit from it.

“We welcome it, especially if it will benefit the local community. We just hope that our protected areas will remain as they are now,” she said.


Standing tall. Lighthouse at Cape Engaño in Palaui Island where "Survivor: Cagayan" was mostly filmed.

Standing tall. Lighthouse at Cape Engaño in Palaui Island where “Survivor: Cagayan” was mostly filmed.

Previously known only for a port where one can buy imported second-hand cars and a hotel with a casino, Santa Ana now also banks on a newfound strength in tourism brought by its hosting of a season of American reality show Survivor.

The show’s 28th season was filmed mostly in Santa Ana’s Palaui Island and Anguib beach from July to August 2013, with preparations starting as early as April.

“Survivor: Cagayan” aired from February 26 to May 21 this year.

“After Surivivor, we were overwhelmed with the influx of tourists. Now even the locals are coming in,” Collado said.

Some 21,000 tourists have already visited as of May, more than thrice of only 6,000 last year, she said.

Gaudencio Fronda, organizer of a group of fishermen ferrying tourists to Palaui and Anguib, said boat rentals also jumped because of the reality show.

“Many visitors want to see the places where the ‘castaways’ were taken to,” he said.

Boat operators have already earned P2.7 million from “castaway” tours as of May, up from P1.2 million for the whole of 2013, Fronda said.

“Our fishermen are now leaving that industry for tourism, they now only fish for extra income,” he said. (John Roson)

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Authorities drove away a Vietnamese fishing vessel after spotting it near the Tubbataha Reef natural park in Palawan on Friday night, the military said Saturday.

The 50- to 60-tonner vessel was observed to be flying a Philippine flag when it was spotted at the reef’s vicinity around 10 p.m., Armed Forces Western Command spokeswoman 1Lt. Cherryl Tindog said, citing a report from the Tubbataha Management Office.

“Accordingly, pinaalis din agad po ng mga park rangers natin doon… Nagkaroon ng pursuit up to 2 nautical miles northeast of the park’s boundaries pero di na tinuloy ang paghabol dahil masama ang kundisyon ng dagat that time,” Tindog said in a text message.

Some of the park rangers are Navy personnel, she added.

Members of the Naval Forces West were sent to the reef Saturday to get more information on the Vietnamese vessel, Tindog said.

It was the third time for a foreign vessel to be spotted at the Tubbataha Reef this year.

On April 8, a Chinese fishing vessel ran aground at the reef and was discovered to be carrying hundreds of dead pangolins.

On Jan. 17, the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian also ran aground at the reef and was removed only after a month. (John Roson)

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A Chinese fishing vessel ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef on Monday night, just days after a US Navy ship was removed from the protected marine biodiversity area, authorities said Tuesday.

The fishing boat ran aground at the southern portion of the reef’s North Islet around 11:45 p.m., Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said, citing a report from Tubbataha Reef park superintendent Angelique Songco.

The boat, which bears the number 63168, has 12 crew members on board, Arevalo said.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said one of their search and rescue vessels was sent to the scene to help park rangers investigate.

The BRP Romblon (SARV 3503) arrived at the site around 10:55 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed the grounding of the 20-meter long boat, he said.

“Ang plano is kapag nag-refloat yung fishing boat due to high tide, eescortan ito dun sa Puerto Princesa City then dadalhin ‘yung crew sa National Committee on Illegal Entrants. Kung poachers sila, kakasuhan,” Balilo said in a phone interview.

Should the fishing boat fail to refloat, its crew members will be taken to Puerto Princesa on board the BRP Romblon, he said.

The grounding occurred just 10 days after authorities finished removing the USS Guardian’s wreckage at the reef’s South Atoll on March 30.

The Guardian, which ran aground on Jan. 17 after making a port call in Subic Bay, Zambales, damaged 2,345.67 square meters of coral, according to the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).

The US government will be fined $1.5 million, or P58.4 million, for the Guardian’s grounding, the TMO said. (John Roson)

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Authorities seized 123 endangered sea turtles or pawikan from allegedly Chinese-backed poachers in Balabac, Palawan, the Navy said Friday.

The turtles – six of which were already dead – were found inside three cages made of mangrove branches that were submerged at the shore of Sitio Dunglog, Brgy. Caguisan, Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said.

The cages were hidden among mangrove trees and the area had four nipa huts believed to serve as observation posts against authorities, he said

Members of the Naval Forces West and the local government carried out the operation around 10 a.m. Tuesday, after receiving reports that poachers were “collecting sea turtles for eventual sale to allegedly Chinese-financed buyers,” Tonsay said in a statement.

Six unidentified persons, believed to be poachers, fled the site on two boats when they saw the operatives approaching their location, he said.

The 117 live turtles, most of which weigh 50 to 60 kilograms, were released on Thursday at Roughton Island, a designated sanctuary for maritime species, Tonsay said.

The dead turtles were buried at a beach near the area were the live ones were freed, he said. (John Roson)

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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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