Coast Guard to siphon bunker fuel off grounded Chinese fishing vessel

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Palawan will attempt to lighten the load of the Chinese fishing vessel in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP), Sulu Sea in a bid to float it off the North Atoll where it ran aground Monday night.

Major Oliver Bañaria, spokesperson of the Western Command (WESCOM), disclosed this to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Thursday while the vessel’s 12 Chinese crewmen are being charged for violating Section 27 of Republic Act 10067 (Tubbataha National Park Act) at the Palawan Regional Trial Court (RTC).

As of this writing, Bañaria said the PCG has already offloaded several heavy items and contraptions off the vessel, but its biggest task will be siphoning its bunker fuel to prevent it from spilling in the marine protected area.

“What the Coast Guard will do is to siphon the bunker fuel from the fishing vessel to prevent leaking or spillage in Tubbataha. They are hoping that in doing this, the weight of the ship will be light enough for high tide to float it away from the coral island,” Bañaria said, adding it will be tugged away.

While only minimum kilos of fresh fish were found in the vessel, the Sino fishers, including its captain, are going to be charged for poaching, which according to the Act include the entry of foreign fishing vessels in the protected marine park area.

Any unpermitted entry is considered by the law as “prima facie evidence” that the Sino vessel is in the marine park to engage in fishing.

On illegal entry, Bañaria said the Provincial Committee on Illegal Entrants (PCIE) is scheduled to meet “soon” to discuss proceedings regarding the Chinese fishermen. He declined to say when this will be.

When the PCIE meets, Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, the newly-installed commanding general of the WESCOM, will be sitting as chairperson.

As soon as the Chinese fishermen have been charged, Bañaria said they will be placed as detainees at the Palawan Provincial Jail (PPJ) to await the first hearing of their case.