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MANILA/BEIJING May 7 Philippines police seized
a Chinese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea on
Wednesday, an official told Reuters, the latest flare-up of
tensions in the oil and gas-rich waters that are claimed wholly
or in part by six Asian nations.
Chief Superintendent Niel Vargas of the Philippine National
Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended
a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon
The boat has 11 crew and police found about 500 turtles in
the vessel, some of which were already dead, he said, adding
that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to
have 40 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are
protected under Philippine law.
Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa
town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be
filed against them, Vargas said.
The incident is bound to raise the ire of Beijing, which
claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims
from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
On Tuesday, China warned Vietnam not to disturb activities
of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in another
part of the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal
the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its
There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between
China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and
the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their
ships in the waters there.
The incidents come days after U.S. President Barack Obama
visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there,
including Japan and the Philippines, both locked in territorial
disputes with China.
Obama, promoting a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific
region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.
Half Moon Shoal is within the Philippines' 200-mile
exclusive economic zone and near to Second Thomas Shoal, where a
small Philippines garrison is based much to China's displeasure.
A second Philippine source, a senior naval officer, said
there were two Chinese boats but the other one escaped.
China's official Xinhua news agency said contact had been
lost with 11 fishermen after they were intercepted by "armed
men" in waters not far from the Philippines.
They were on board the fishing boat Qiongqionghai 09063,
which was intercepted by an unidentified armed vessel at about
10 a.m. (0200 GMT) in waters off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly
Islands, Xinhua said, citing a fishing association in Qionghai
on China's southern island province of Hainan.
The shoal is some 100 km (60 miles) from the Philippines'
"Several armed men forced themselves onto the boat and fired
four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the
boat," Xinhua said.
A second fishing boat escaped, but then encountered another
armed boat, although it was able to get away, the report added.
The Qionghai government has sent other trawlers operating
close by to help look for the fishermen, but has yet to find
them, Xinhua said.
China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju