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Legal Battle Ensuing Over Fishing Vessel

The counsel for the owner of the seized Philippine fishing vessel in November claimed that the boat was making an “innocent passage” on Palau waters and not conducting any illegal fishing.

In a six-page answer and counter-claim filed in court Dec.21, vessel Gene 8 owned by San Lorenzo Ruiz Fishing Industry, Inc., a Philippine-based fishing company cited that the vessel should not have been arrested because it was making an innocent passage as” she was exercising her right pursuant to 7 PNC § 203 and Article I, § 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Palau which recognize the right of innocent passage and internationally recognized freedom of the high seas.”

In the counter claim the defendant is also asking that the court to order the Palau government to return the vessel to them and pay restitution in the amount subject to proof for the value of its 30 tons of fish cargo, including such other relief as is just and fair, including reasonable costs and attorney's fees.

Palau government filed on Dec. 2 a civil action suit against the owner of Gene 8.

Civil Action No. 16-112 seeks forfeiture of vessel Gene 8 with the government also asking the court to order the vessel to pay a fine for illegally fishing in Palau water.

On November 18, PSS Remeliik stopped and boarded the foreign fishing vessel found in Palau’s exclusive economic zone.

The boat owner through its counsel Johnson Toribiong claimed that Gene 8 is not a fishing vessel, but a fish carrier, “which was dispatched, not to fish as she is designed and built to do so, but only to transport fish already caught from international waters which encompass the point where the fish cargo was loaded at 04 degree North and 136 East, where its Fish Aggregating Devise (FAD) was previously located with the approval of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.”

The counterclaim further stated that the boat’s engine suffered mechanical problem on its way back to its main port when caught by the Palau marine law officers.

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