Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 16:03
China asks Manila to release detained boat
By Agencies

MANILA/BEIJING - Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday urged the Philippines to "immediately" release detained fishermen after it emerged that Chinese nationals aboard fishing boat Qiongqionghai 09063 was seized by the Philippine police around 10 am Wednesday in waters off the Half Moon Shoal of Nansha Islands.

China has demanded the Philippines "make rational explanations, " said spokeswoman Hua Chunying at the daily press briefing, urging the Philippine side to "take no more provocative action." Hua said Chinese maritime police boat had arrived at the sea area. Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines have already lodged representations with the Philippine side.

Chief Superintendent Niel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 am on Tuesday in waters off the Half Moon Shoal of Nansha Islands.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 500 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, he said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 40 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.

China's official Xinhua news agency said contact had been lost with 11 fishermen after they were intercepted by "armed men" in waters not far from the Philippines.

They were on board the fishing boat Qiongqionghai 09063, which was intercepted by an unidentified armed vessel at about 10 am local time in waters off Half Moon Shoal of Nansha Islands, Xinhua said, citing a fishing association in Qionghai on China's southern island province of Hainan.

The shoal is some 100 km from the Philippines' Palawan island.

"Several armed men forced themselves onto the boat and fired four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the boat," Xinhua reported.

A second fishing boat escaped, but then encountered another armed boat, although it was able to get away, the report added.

The Qionghai government has sent other trawlers operating close by to help look for the fishermen, but has yet to find them, Xinhua said.

China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.