A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator yesterday asked the government to swiftly plan measures to protect Taiwanese fishermen who have been bullied by Chinese vessels in Taiwan’s sea territory around the Spratly Islands (南沙群島).
DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) of Pingtung County said a Pingtung fishing boat was forced by a Chinese sea exploration boat to leave waters off the Spratly Islands on Thursday evening and that there were three Chinese fishing boats nearby.
Pan said the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) was reluctant to do anything about it because it did not want to challenge President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) China-leaning policies.
The disputed island chains and the surrounding waters are claimed either entirely or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The CGA station with more than 100 officers on Taiping Island (太平島), the biggest of the Spratly chain, is responsible for expelling foreign vessels in the Spratly Islands’ waters.
“I will lead Pingtung fishermen to protest against the government soon if the government is too weak to protect fishermen because fishermen are really in danger under the current situation,” Pan said.
Pan said the government is not upholding the nation’s sovereignty over the Spratly Islands because it failed to expel a growing number of Chinese boats in the area.
While the former DPP government allocated NT$28 billion (US$850 million) to increase the number of coast guard boats to 173 by 2017, including two 3,000-tonne patrol ships, the Ma government suspended the proposal, Pan said.
He said that a CGA proposal to strengthen patrols around Spratly Islands was also suspended by the government.
The DPP has said that the Ma government is ignoring the Chinese fishing boats entering the waters to avoid offending China.
Recent figures from the CGA showed that more than 500 vessels intruded in waters off the Spratly Islands this year, much more than in recent years.
The CGA said Chinese fishermen on big fishing boats often use ropes to make a chain with smaller fishing boats when they operate in the area.
The strategy makes it difficult to force them to leave.