Four Japanese men allegedly hunting for the legendary Yamashita Treasure have been arrested on a tiny island off the coast of Luzon.
Also arrested on Capones Island, just off the coast of San Antonio town on Thursday (May 31), were their 13 Filipino workers.
Senior Inspector Jonathan Bardaje identified the suspects as Domyo Ukari, aged 56, of Kagoshima; Shinchi Kawano, 44, of Kanagawa; Mori Eizo, 60, of Tokyo; and a 15-year-old Japanese boy from Saitama.
Sr. Insp. Bardaje said that at about 5am on Thursday a joint operation was mobilised to check for alleged illegal mining on the island.
The authorities arrived at the site at about 6.30am and caught one of the suspects digging at the west side of the island, about 50 metres away from a lighthouse that is manned by government personnel.
Sr. Insp. Bardaje said that based on the depth of the tunnel – around 16 feet – he believed that the suspects had been working on the rocky island for more than a month.
Police confiscated a compressor, a generator, two metal detectors, a jack hammer and other mining equipment.
All the suspects, except the minor, were detained at the San Antonio police station for charges of illegal mining, malicious mischief and violation of municipal ordinance pertaining to Marine Protected Area.
San Antonio Vice Mayor Lugil Ragadio said Capones Island, declared as a Marine Protected Area, was one of the major tourist destinations in the province.
In an interview on local media, one of the Filipino suspects admitted that they were conducting treasure hunting in the area and were paid 1,000 pesos per day by their Japanese employers.
Under Philippine laws, people anyone wishing to engage in treasure hunting should secure a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Yamishita Treasure is said to be a vast hoard of gold bullion and precious stones looted by the Japanese from across Southeast Asia. It is said that as the Allied forces closed in on the retreating Imperial forces, General Yamashita ordered the treasure to be buried in a series of secret underground chambers.
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