Taiwan’s fisheries authorities have no way of controlling the activities of small fishing boats like the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, and we have to rely instead upon the Ministry of the Interior’s and the Coast Guard Administration’s (CGA) Temporary Enforcement Line, as well as the protection provided by CGA patrols. Nevertheless, our ability to enforce maritime law is, in practice, extremely limited, and falls way behind that of some other countries.
In the 1990s, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans responsible for it had at their disposal over-the-horizon radar and fixed wing surveillance planes.
They afforded real-time surveillance capability to monitor the position and trajectory of any vessels that appeared within the maritime boundaries of the 200 nautical mile EEZ or in the maritime waters just beyond that demarcation line.
Even today, the CGA lacks such technology or equipment, and even the establishment of an air patrol corps provided for in Article 17 of the Organic Act of the Coastguard Administration (海巡署組織法) has fallen victim to the government’s misguided cutbacks that effectively leave the maritime patrol fleet without onboard helicopters or land-based fixed wing surveillance aircraft.
As a result, it is unable to monitor in real time the movements of ships in relatively distant maritime waters, and it is also unable to deploy aircraft on support, reconnaissance or enforcement missions should the need arise.
Now that someone has been killed, having our president express his outrage or sympathy is not going to solve the problem. Our navy can do little but stand back and talk of “protecting fishermen.”
The CGA has spent billions of New Taiwan dollars on installing a coastal radar system that is only capable of monitoring the waters a few nautical miles out to sea, but remains unable to monitor 200 nautical miles out to the extent of the EEZ Taiwan lays claim to, and the Fisheries Agency cannot control the behavior of small fishing vessels.
Meanwhile, neither the Ministry of National Defense nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the volition, backbone or knowledge needed. They are either unwilling or unable to engage in or exploit the dispute and to bring all the policy instruments at their disposal to bear to make us enter bilateral discussions with the Philippines to reach an agreement on maritime boundaries and maritime activity. Can the public still place their hopes in the government?
Nien-Tsu Alfred Hu is director of The Center for Marine Policy Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University and president of the Institute of Marine Affairs and Policy.
Translated by Paul Cooper