According to Article 7 of the Act of Use of Weapons and Requisite Instruments by the Coast Guard Authority (海岸巡防機關器械使用條例): “Any personnel of the Coast Guard in the course of performing duties may use a firearm or dagger when the life, body, freedom and/or property of any innocent people is endangered or threatened, or in the presence of any fact that is sufficient for the personnel of the Coast Guard to believe that any innocent people [are] subject to such danger or threaten[ed].”
Article 8 also states: “If the use of [a] dagger or firearm fails to stop the crime, any personnel of the Coast Guard in the course of performing duties may use guns as may be required in the opinion of the highest-ranking official of the Coast Guard authority that no other alternative is available.”
However, incidents usually happen suddenly, and Philippine vessels have repeatedly and recklessly employed lethal force against fishing boats. The government should immediately authorize law enforcement in the area and employ all necessary means — including the use of force — against Philippine government vessels that attack Taiwanese fishing boats within the overlapping exclusive economic zones. How can Taiwanese tolerate the Philippines killing Taiwanese fishermen in its own waters?
The Taiwanese government should relax restrictions on the use of force at sea and empower law enforcement agencies in accordance with the law. Halfway measures will not solve the problem. In the face of danger, law enforcement agencies should be freed from unnecessary restrictions so that they can protect the lives and property of Taiwanese fishermen and safeguard the nation’s maritime rights.
Chiang Huang-chih is a professor of law at National Taiwan University.
Translated by Eddy Chang