Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Fishermen return amid calls for action

TROUBLE ON THE HIGH SEAS Ruling and opposition lawmakers urged the government to do more to protect the country's fleet of fishing vessels in disputed waters

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chang Tien-he is fed noodles cooked with pig knuckles by his wife upon stepping off the fishing boat Chin Chun Man at Chengkung fishing port in Taitung County yesterday after 36 hours on the run from Philippine naval vessels. Taiwanese believe eating noodles cooked with pig knuckles can get rid of bad luck.

PHOTO: CNA

Two Taitung-registered fishing boats returned home yesterday after 36 hours on the run from Philippine military vessels.

The two boats, Chin Chun Man and Yu Yin Tsai, arrived in Taitung yesterday morning after escaping from custody at a port in the northern Philippines. Philippine authorities had detained the two boats, each with a crew of five, for more than two months for allegedly fishing illegally.

After slipping away in the dark on Sunday night, the two boats first headed west toward Hainan Island to avoid detection by the pursuing Philippine authorities. The detour meant that a journey that normally takes 14 hours actually took 36 hours.

"As far as I know, the crew of two [other] Taiwanese fishing boats remain in the custody of the Philippine authorities," Su Ming-sheng (蘇銘勝), captain of the Chin Chun Man, said yesterday.

The Council of Agriculture's Fisheries Agency confirmed that the Philippines was still holding 11 crewmembers and two fishing boats. Four other Taiwanese fishing boats escaped last week during rough weather caused by Typhoon Imbudo.

The return of the two fishing boats has raised the concern of lawmakers about the government's handling of fishing disputes.

"The government needs to show a tough attitude to solve this dispute if it really wants to protect the rights of local fishermen," said KMT Legislator Lin Yi-shih (林益世) of Kaohsiung County.

Lin said the government should follow the example of China.

"The Chinese naval forces never hesitate to chase the caught vessel and the Philippines warships on the high seas, whereas our frigates can't even escort our boats when they are in trouble," Lin said.

A DPP lawmaker from Pingtung County agreed that the government should do more to protect fishermen working in the seas between Taiwan and the Philippines.

"More warships should be deployed to the neighboring waters as a measure to protect our fishermen from suffering unreasonable detention by the Philippine authorities even though they haven't even crossed the midway line" between the two countries, Legislator Lin Yu-sheng (林育生) said.

He blamed the dispute on overlapping economic territorial waters between Taiwan and the Philippines.

"Powerful protection methods such as deploying warships to these waters should be taken by the government to prevent our nationals from becoming victims of this unsolved problem," he said.

Another DPP legislator, Yu Jan-daw (余政道), suggested that the government should press forward with talks with the Philippines to safeguard the rights of Taiwanese fishermen to use the disputed waters.

"Regular dialogue between Taiwan and the Philippines should be established as quickly as possible. The government must help a civilian body create a dialogue mechanism with a counterpart in the Philippines in light of the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries," Yu said.

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