ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 17, 2011) – The Philippine military said it released a Hong Kong boat earlier detained by security forces for poaching off Mindanao.
It said the boat was transporting Chinese businessmen to Tawi-Tawi who were interested in the local seaweed industry. “Latest report said the boat was only transporting Chinese businessmen to Tawi-Tawi because they are interested in the province’s huge seaweed industry,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
The military reported on Friday that security forces held the ship’s 18 Chinese and Filipino crewmen after soldiers seized assorted weapons in the boat off Tawi-Tawi province.
It said authorities were questioning the skipper of the ship Mai Ya Si, a Hong Kong national, including 7 Chinese and 11 Filipino seamen, who were also accused of poaching near the islands of Sibutu and Sitangkai late Wednesday.
The boat was also suspected of transporting illegal shipment of weapons and drugs into the country, the military said. “The vessel was poaching in the waters of Sibutu and Sitangkai islands in Tawi-Tawi province while illegally flying a Philippine flag. The ship was also suspected to be transporting assorted weapons, illegal drugs and chemicals used in the manufacture of illegal drugs,” the report said, adding the Filipino crewmen were composed of five policemen, a retired officer, an ex-air force soldier and five other ship workers.
“A search conducted on the boat led to the seizure of two M14 automatic rifles, four M16 automatic rifles, and an M16 with an M203 grenade launcher,” it said. (Mindanao Examiner)