Thu, Jun 11, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Manila’s illegal maritime hostility

By Chiang Huang-chih 姜皇池

Granted, a conclusion is not a legal document, but such behavior makes Manila politically untrustworthy.

It is not difficult to see through the Philippines’ plotting. Its claim of territorial waters is a violation of international law. Through forceful law enforcement, it attempts to frighten Taiwanese boats so they would not risk operating in the overlapping territorial waters, which is akin to Taiwan giving up existing fishing grounds.

Moreover, Taiwanese fishing boats are forced to obey Philippine regulations that are inconsistent with international law and to notify the Philippines before passing through these waters.

This is the same as putting Taiwan at the mercy of Manila, leaving Taiwanese fishing boats no choice but to avoid these waters.

However, Philippine law enforcement capability is insufficient, so Manila enters into diplomatic agreements to achieve results it cannot through other means.

War is dangerous and harmful, so decisionmaking must not be based on impulsive reactions and peace must be sought whenever possible.

However, if the lives and fortunes of Taiwanese are lost as a result of illegal actions of other nations, it is not right to maintain inaction either. Especially when it comes to maritime rights: Inaction or tolerance will be deemed as acknowledgment or acquiescence under international law, which could jeopardize Taiwan’s rights.

If it is still not feasible to reach an agreement that could actually protect the rights of Taiwanese fishermen, Taiwan could borrow from the US’ freedom of navigation program, or dispatch several warships to carry out small-scale, concentrated defense missions safeguarding Taiwanese fishing boats and fishing rights.

Until Manila stop its illegal behavior, if Philippine law-enforcement ships are found in the overlapping waters, Taiwan must be ready for confrontation at any time so Manila has no choice other than to revise its laws.

Otherwise, despite its advantage over the Philippines in military power, law enforcement and economic strength, Taiwan would likely remain powerless to resolve the difficult situation of its fishermen. The Coast Guard Administration’s patrol boats, which cost billions of New Taiwan dollars to build and operate, will be good for nothing but display and — since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working hard on the matter — will remain silently at port, while the basic rights of Taiwanese fishermen are forfeited.

Chiang Huang-chih is a professor of law at National Taiwan University.

Translated by Ethan Zhan

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