President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) following the recent signing of a fisheries agreement with Japan, and said the government would welcome any efforts by China to negotiate a fisheries agreement with Taiwan.
In an interview with Hit FM radio, Ma dismissed concerns that China was upset about the agreement and said the pact aimed to protect the rights of Taiwanese fishermen while setting aside sovereignty disputes.
“It is my administration’s duty to strive for improved rights for our fishermen. [The agreement] focused on protecting and maintaining those rights … We would also welcome China if it wished to discuss a fisheries agreement,” he said.
The agreement with Japan, signed last month, allows fishing vessels from Taiwan and Japan to operate in a 70,000km2 zone without being subject to the jurisdiction of the other side, with Taipei being granted an additional fishing zone of 4,800km2 outside of Taiwan’s temporary enforcement line.
However, the agreement does not apply to waters within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) — a state’s territorial waters — surrounding the Diaoyutais, sparking concern among legislators over a perceived failure to insist on the nation’s sovereignty over the islands.
When asked to comment on the economy, Ma acknowledged that growth in the first quarter of 1.54 percent fell short of the government’s estimate of 3.26 percent, and said his administration will work to increase growth by promoting consumption and increasing exports.
The president argued that the nation’s economic growth is still better than that of South Korea and some other Asian nations, and said that the government will provide solutions to the current growth slowdown within a month.
As to disputes over the government’s pension reform proposals, Ma continued to defend the reforms and dismissed proposals made by lawmakers for the government to raise the maximum insurance salary for private-sector workers, which currently stands at NT$43,900.
A number of lawmakers jointly submitted a three-point proposal: Raise the maximum insurance salary for private-sector workers; exclude private-sector retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$32,160 — which is the minimum monthly payment for retired civil servants — from the current reform package; and establish a uniform starting year for the reform plan for both public-sector and private-sector workers.
Ma said that raising the maximum insurance salary would be more beneficial for workers with higher incomes and insisted that the government’s proposed labor reforms would be fairer.