Mon, Apr 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Substantive support is required for coast guard

By Chang Feng-lin 張豐麟

Last year, the Coast Guard Administration purchased drones supplied by AVIX, MiTAC and JC-Tech, which won the contract to jointly produce the AXH-E230s.

The drones have a control radius of 30km and, according to an Ocean Affairs Council report submitted to the Legislative Yuan, can reinforce defensive capabilities in the South China Sea.

In the second half of this year, the coast guard’s Southern Sector Flotilla is to receive four rotary wing drones to be deployed with large patrol cutters. It is also to continue to participate in annual training exercises with military academies throughout the nation, and send personnel to take part in artillery training.

The proactive approach the coast guard is taking is inspiring and should be encouraged.

However, in addition to any moral encouragement, the government should also support the agency in more concrete ways.

Countries in the region with territorial claims over the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) and national interests in the area have over the past few years taken more substantive measures.

The Philippines has been making preparations and has leased — following amendments in 2017 to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces Act — five TC-90 training airplanes with a range of up to 2,000km.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that after the receipt of the five aircraft early last year, they were first flown on Jan. 31 last year to the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島), over which Manila has a territorial dispute with China. [Editor’s note: Taiwan also claims it.]

Clearly, Japan and the Philippines are working together.

In April last year, the Philippines announced that it was to construct a forward airbase on Mavulis Island — called Yami Island (雅米島) by Taiwan — just 98km to the south of Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), for the use of naval vessels and fighter jets.

Mavulis is on the edge of territorial waters and fishing grounds claimed by Taiwan and the Philippines and, when the airbase is complete, the entirety of the Bashi Channel to the south of Taiwan and the waters to the southeast of Taiwan would fall into the Philippines’ surveillance range.

This would restrict fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen within those waters.

It is abundantly clear that the Philippines’ objective in the South China Sea is not simply to monitor China’s expansionism; it is also to further constrict the development of the Taiwanese fishing industry.

Article 17 of the Organization Act of the Coast Guard Administration (行政院海岸巡防署組織法) stated that the coast guard was required to arrange airborne patrols.

That article has been deleted, but in January 2002 an airborne patrol was established on a trial outsourcing model, with jets secured on loan.

At the time, Taiwan was the third nation in the Asia-Pacific region, behind Japan and South Korea, with a coast guard operating three-dimensional air-sea patrols.

Seventeen years later, and the coast guard no longer has the budget to buy airplanes, so its ability to patrol areas around the nation has fallen behind that of neighboring countries.

It is good that the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan provide moral encouragement for the council and coast guard, but it would be better if it could also offer more substantive support for airborne patrols.

This would enable the coast guard to better administer the waters around the nation, and give Taiwan the wherewithal to negotiate with neighboring nations.

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