The fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard in contested waters in the South China Sea has prompted Taipei to urge Manila to negotiate with it over the delineation of fishing grounds in the area, negotiations that have previously been impeded largely by opposition from China, analysts said.
When Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Shih (石定) summoned Philippine Representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio on Friday to register the government’s concerns over the incident, the ministry proposed that a fisheries agreement be signed between the two countries to end fishing disputes.
According to the ministry, Basilio, who received a copy of the recently signed fisheries agreement between Taiwan and Japan on waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), said Manila “might consider the option.”
At a press conference afterward, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) called on the Philippines, which he said “has shown very little or no interests on the matter,” to “bring the issue to the fore of bilateral relations.”
A ministry official previously posted in the Philippines, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that the major hindrance to seeing the Philippines sit down with Taiwan on the issue was its adherence to a “one China” policy.
The Philippines has been too intimidated by China’s superior military power and economic sanctions to break the “one China” policy, which prevents countries from signing any agreement with Taiwan without China’s consent, he said.
Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) said that the political obstacle has been an issue in Taiwan’s dealings with the Philippines.
Taiwan and the Philippines signed the Agreement on Sea Lane Passage and the Memorandum on Agriculture and Fisheries Cooperation in 1991 to ensure safe passage of Taiwanese fishing boats in its territorial waters en route to the South Pacific Ocean, but in 1998, the Philippines unilaterally invalidated the accord, Sha said.
National Taiwan University international law professor -Chiang Huang-chih (姜皇池) said that countries that have competing territorial claims could resort to various mechanisms to demarcate the zones within which fishing vessels from concerned parties could carry on their operations.
When disputes over territorial delimitation arise, the countries could send the cases to the International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of Arbitration, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or an ad hoc tribunal, with the consent of all parties, he said.
However, the chance is low that the Philippines will accept any of the options because it could use China as an excuse to delay the issue, Chiang said.