Arrest of fishing crew off Spratlys

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 1997, 12:00am

At least 23 Chinese and Hong Kong fishermen are being held by Philippine authorities after being arrested off the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea at the end of July, it emerged yesterday.

Philippine officials said the fishermen were apprehended by a naval patrol near Hasa Hasa Shoal, off the western island province of Palawan.

The fishermen's ship was equipped with 10 smaller motor-powered boats and was registered in Hong Kong. Blasting caps used for dynamite fishing were also found aboard.

Philippine navy Lieutenant-Commander Salvador Cuba said the fishermen could be charged with illegal entry and illegal fishing. Their case has been turned over to the Palawan provincial committee on illegal entrants.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau was checking yesterday with the Foreign Ministry office about the incident.

The chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Floating Fishermen's Welfare Promotion Association, Keung Yin-man, said the area was rich in upmarket fish.

'There are many wrasse and garoupa. They can earn up to $2 million for a one-month trip, which is 10 times more than their normal routes,' he said.

The general secretary of the Joint Committee of HK Fishermen's Organisations, Leung Wai-ying, said his group would ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office to help the men.

A Foreign Ministry office spokesman in Hong Kong said: 'We are now trying to understand the situation with the parties involved.'