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1,000 bottles with toxic chemicals retrieved at Puerto Princesa bay PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Puerto Princesa Bay / Photo: Rene BaylonPUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 30 (PNA) - More than 1,000 bottles allegedly containing toxic chemicals used for illegal fishing were retrieved Tuesday by the personnel of the city government’s "Bantay Dagat" in shallow waters at the city’s bay.

The toxic chemicals, reportedly to be formalin, allegedly came from the two abandoned foreign fishing vessels that sank off the city’s bay few years ago.

The chemicals were discovered after local fishermen found the bottles while fishing at the bay.

Joel Disierto, one of the divers of the Bantay Dagat, told mediamen here that each bottle, which was recovered some 10 to 15 feet from the surface, contained one liter of formalin.

Bantay Dagat divers theorized that the retrieved bottles were stored inside the compartment of the two wooden foreign fishing vessels, but it scattered at the shallow bed after the fishing vessels sank off due to lack of maintenance.

Owned by Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese fishermen, some of the foreign vessels are being guarded by authorities in Palawan at the city’s pier while their illegal fishing cases are being heard in local courts.

At present, there are three cases of poaching in Palawan involving Chinese nationals that are still undergoing court proceedings - that of the owners and crew of F/B King King Hai caught on June 17, 2006; of a vessel with no name but with body no. 2880 caught October 21, 2006; and that against the owner and crew of F/V Hoi Wan apprehended December 21, 2006.

Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and PNP maritime officials have yet to determine the name of the fishing vessels and the reason why they sank.

On the other hand, Mayor Edward Hagedorn was irked over the retrieval of toxic chemicals, noting it pose great danger to the marine species at the city’s bay.

”I am shocked with this report, these toxic chemicals and fishing paraphernalia should be confiscated and used as evidence”, said Hagedorn, a known environmental advocate.

He also directed lawyer Arnulfo Tagle to personally investigate the incident and file a corresponding case against the concerned government agencies responsible in the negligence.

Hagedorn likewise was dismayed that the Bantay Dagat was not assisted by the Coast Guard and PNP-Maritime here in the retrieval operation Tuesday.

As of press time, PCG divers, Bantay Dagat and residents of Mandaragat have jointly conducted a follow up operation to recover remaining bottles in the bay.

Formalin is believed to be used by foreign fishermen to preserve fish caught in local waters while waiting to their local or home ports, that usually takes three to four months, according to local fishermen familiar with the operations of illegal foreign poachers.

Sodium cyanide is commonly used as an ingredient to a potent mixture that is used to stun fish, particularly high-priced groupers, in order to catch them live and sell to Chinese restaurants in Manila and Hong Kong.

The chemical, which is banned in all forms of fishing, is extremely toxic and destroys coral reefs. (PNA)

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