By SAMMY JULIAN
Manila News Bureau Chief
MANILA – The two minors who were among the 11 Chinese fishermen apprehended at the Hasa-Hasa Shoal were released and left Manila Wednesday night bound for Guangzhou, China, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The two were confirmed to be minors after a medical check-up conducted by local medical authorities.
Under Philippine laws, including Republic Act 7610 (The Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act), minors cannot be prosecuted.
The two minors were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Office in Palawan upon their release in accordance with Philippine regulations.
The remaining nine Chinese fishermen were charged with violating Philippine fisheries laws, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Last week, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group Special Boat Unit captured a Chinese fishing vessel, identified as Qiongqionghai 09063, and 11 of its crew carrying large numbers of endangered sea turtles, many of them already dead, near Hasa-Hasa Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
China has demanded that the Philippines free the fishermen immediately, saying it has “undisputable sovereignty” over the shoal.
Its foreign ministry and embassy in Manila have also urged the Philippines to “stop taking further provocative actions” that would harm relations./PN