MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has charged nine Chinese fishermen with poaching more than 500 endangered sea turtles at a disputed South China Sea shoal despite China’s demand for them to be immediately freed.

Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez said Monday that two other arrested Chinese were minors and would be sent home. The nine Chinese have been charged with violating the Philippine fisheries code, including illegally harvesting 555 endangered turtles.

Police arrested the fishermen and seized the boat that was allegedly laden with the giant turtles, most of them dead, last week at the disputed Half Moon Shoal.

The arrests prompted a protest from Beijing in the latest territorial spat between the Asian neighbors in the increasingly volatile South China Sea.

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