Government officials and a fisherman detained by the Philippines for eight days earlier this month yesterday argued over whether the fisherman had been arrested for poaching in the Philippines’ territorial waters.
Tsai Po (蔡波), who was arrested by Philippine officials 40m off Ditarem, an islet in the northern Philippine province of Batanes, on Sept. 3 on charges of illegal entry and poaching, told a press conference yesterday that he was only trespassing because he needed assistance due to a mechanical problem on his motor-powered raft.
The Philippine Coast Guard forced him to kneel down for four hours and framed him for poaching by placing lobsters and fish in a barrel on his boat, said Tsai, who was released after the Philippines agreed to deal with the case using administrative laws rather than judicial proceedings in bilateral negotiations.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), organizer of the press conference, said trespassing while seeking assistance and poaching are very different things, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Fisheries Agency chose to believe the Philippine side of the story.
“The government’s position has been very clear. We protect our fishermen, but not those who have violated regulations,” Wang Mao-cheng (王茂城), a technical specialist at the Fisheries Agency, said, adding that the government would negotiate for the release of fishermen detained while operating in the nation’s exclusive economic zone.
However, Taiwanese fishermen are not allowed to fish within the 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of Philippine territorial waters, Wang said.
If Tsai’s raft had broken down near Small Lanyu, an uninhabited volcanic islet about 5km southeast of Lanyu Island, as Tsai claimed, the vessel would have drifted toward Okinawa rather than the Philippines, Wang said.
Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Director-General Benjamin Ho (何登煌) said Philippine officials adhered to a bilateral agreement not to adopt use of force measures and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had done the best it could to prevent Tsai from being tried by the Philippine judiciary.