Two Chinese fishing vessels flying an inverted Philippine flag inside Philippine territories was arrested on Monday by the combined team of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the area of Sabtang Island, Batanes in the north, Balintang Island in the west and Calayan Island.

The two Chinese vessel – F/V Shen Lia Cheng with 12 crew members and F/V She Kou with 13 crew members caught poaching inside Philippine territories.

A Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat accosts Chinese fishing vessel Shen Lian Cheng 720 on May 16, 2016, off Balintang Channel between the Babuyan Islands and Batanes Islands. (PNA photo by Lito Reganit onboard M/V DA-BFAR)

The PCG together with the BFAR are conducting a routine seaborne patrol on the northernmost islands of the Philippines when they spotted the two vessels were both flying a Chinese flag and a Philippine flag that was raised upside down with the red stripe on top.

The Chinese said they were just passing through on their way to their fishing grounds outside Philippine waters – showing their empty holds as proof – but were not able to provide the necessary papers for a right of passage.

Agriculture Undersecretary and BFAR national director Asis Perez said that flying the Philippine flag is a common tactic utilized by poachers.

However, Perez said that the mere fact that they were flying the Philippine flag necessitates further investigation.

The Chinese fishermen are now on boat arrest, guarded by BFAR officials and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) staff and was instructed to escort the boats to Basco, Batanes by the DA official for an investigation. Basco is the nearest island where proper authorities are stationed. – Carl E.