President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the government would lift its sanctions on the Philippines if Manila responds positively to Taiwan’s requests with regard to the May 9 shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
Ma said the government stands firm on its position that the Philippine government should offer a formal apology, compensate the victim’s family, investigate the case, bring those responsible to justice and open fishery negotiations with Taiwan.
He said these were reasonable requests that are consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN Charter.
“We are waiting for a response from the Philippines. If there is a positive response, we definitely will lift the sanctions,” Ma said while addressing a military commissioning and promotion ceremony.
The shooting took place in waters about 70km east of Balintang Island in the northern Philippines.
Manila has contended that the Taiwanese boat was poaching in its waters, while Taipei argues that the boat was operating in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone.
On May 15, Taiwan imposed a series of retaliatory measures against the Philippines, which include suspending the issuance of visas to Filipino workers, issuing a red travel alert for the Philippines and suspending high-level exchanges between the two countries.
Also halted were bilateral economic exchanges, agricultural and fishery cooperation, technology research exchange and cooperation projects, aviation rights negotiations and visa-free treatment for Filipinos.
The two sides have completed their respective investigations into the case, but have yet to release their reports or bring charges against those responsible for the death of the Taiwanese fisherman, 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).
They have begun talks on fishing rights in waters where the two nations’ exclusive economic zones overlap, which they hope will lead to a formal fisheries agreement. The first meeting was held on June 14.
Ma said that Taiwan signed a similar fisheries agreement with Japan in April that gave Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530km2 near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in which they can operate free of harassment by the Japanese authorities.
The agreement provides a tentative resolution to the decades-long fisheries dispute between the two nations without undermining each other’s territorial claims over the Diaoyutais, he said.
He pledged that the government would continue its efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen who are operating legally in the nation’s exclusive economic zone and on the high seas.