Press Release
January 24, 2007


Senate environment committee chairperson Senator Pia S. Cayetano will push for stronger measures against poachers caught operating in the Tubbataha Reefs Marine National Park (TRMNP), in light of rampant illegal fishing activities in the renowned diving site in the province of Palawan.

Cayetano said the measures will be included in her committee amendments to Senate Bill No. 2533, which the senator authored and is currently sponsoring on the senate floor. The bill seeks to declare the TRMNP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a protected area.

"These additional measures are meant to boost the government's drive in prosecuting foreign poachers caught in Tubbataha," said Cayetano, noting that violators in past cases had been able to post bail and slip out of the country to escape prosecution, or settle the case with the government for a lighter fine.

"Information coming from the Tubbataha Marine Office (TMO) shows that none of the Chinese poachers caught before has ever been punished under our laws. What message is the government sending to the world when we allow the plunder of our marine resources go unpunished?" she asked.

Cayetano is considering the following amendments:

A provision mandating the courts to automatically issue a hold-departure order (HDO) as a condition for the grant of bail to any foreigner caught fishing or operating a fishing vessel within the TRMNP.

Automatic confiscation of the poachers' shipping vessels and equipment, which shall then be placed under the custody of the Tubbataha Management Office.

Greater local representation in the management of TRMNP by naming the head of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) as co-chair of the Tubbataha Management Board.

Cayetano said she considered the above amendments based on inputs coming from government agencies and non-government organizations directly involved in managing the reefs and in prosecuting foreign poachers, including the recent case of 30 Chinese poachers aboard the vessel F/V Hoi Wan who were caught by park rangers last December and who are now all out on bail.

These groups include the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR, World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Philippines) Chief Executive Officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan and Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) Park Manager Angelique Songco.

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