Chinese caught stealing Black Corals off Camiguin

Chinese fisher boat

10 Chinese nationals were arrested off Camiguin. This headline created an uproar in the diver community in Camiguin. But there is a hick!

The article that created the uproar was published in rappler.com. I wondered a bit about the descriptions found in the article. I had never seen those monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) vessels around our island. I also couldn’t imagine how a Chinese fisher boat or trawler could get in the Bohol sea without being caught. I then started to search a bit. The original article had been published in the Manila Bulletin. There I found also the answer on my questions.

There are 2 Camiguin Islands

The incident didn’t happen near Camiguin (Mindanao) but off the coast of Camiguin (Calayan) in the far north of the Philippines. It seems that the rappler.com journalist had a seat near the window during his geography lessons. The confusion created by the rappler.com article wouldn’t have been that strong, if they hadn’t headed the article with a map in which the wrong Camiguin had been prominently marked.

 Camiguin North  Camiguin South
The northern Camiguin The southern Camiguin

Finally it is interesting to compare the two Camiguins. Both island have about the same size – 21 km long and 14 km wide. Both islands are of volcanic origin and have rather high mountains. Both islands are accompanied by a smaller island and a sandbar: Camiguin north’s little island is called Paoctan Island, Camihuin south’s co-island is Mantigue Island. Both islands are diver paradises and do have black corals. And there is this Cagayan! Camiguin north belongs to the province of Cagayan. Camiguin south’s nearest City with seaport and airport is Cagayan de Oro.
You see, there is enough to get confused. But there are also big differences.
Camiguin north is almost inhabited, while the southern one has about 90,000 inhabitants. Camiguin south is an independent province with 2 towns. Camiguin north belongs to the province of Cagayan.

And the Chinese in all this?

Here is a copy of the Manila Bulletin article:

Ten Chinese nationals were arrested after the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) chased their ship after a dangerous intercept in the waters off Camiguin Island in Cagayan Valley Wednesday night.

Captain Allen Toribio, commanding officer of MCS 3007, said they engaged in a long pursuit the steel-hulled Chinese vessel that attempted to escape after hitting MCS 3010.

“At first, we thought it was a local vessel because it was marked with Subic and was flying a Philippine flag but it was found to be manned by Chinese crew,” he said.

“They pretended that they were aboard a locally registered vessel to avoid suspicion,” Toribio said.

MCS 3010 radioed and sought assistance from MCS 3007 at 8 p.m. when it was chasing the Chinese vessel. MCS 3007 was supposedly headed to Babuyan Island, but it maneuvered to help in the sea chase.

The Chinese ship reportedly damaged MCS 3010 after it hit the astern of the PCG vessel.

While escaping, the two MCS at a speed of seven knots positioned themselves at both sides of the foreign vessel and trapped it.

Toribio narrated that the Coast Guard boarding team jumped into the back of the Chinese vessel.

Upon inspection, Toribio said the foreign vessel was found carrying endangered black corals.

He said the Chinese crew could be held liable for violations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has yet to finish its inventory on the black corals.

The Chinese crew and their steel-hulled vessel were already brought to the Port Irene.

The reactions of some divers in Camiguin (south) had been rather violent. The best one had been this: “Blow up their ship, just like the Indonesians do. It could make a nice wreck-dive”.
This inspired us in the choice of this article’s teaser image. How the Indonesians did and do can be read in this “The Diplomat” article. This could be a good idea, looking what the Chinese are doing in the Spratlies.

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