Taiwan and the Philippines are expected to soon sign an agreement on maritime law enforcement cooperation aimed at addressing fishing disputes in the two nations’ overlapping waters, officials said yesterday.
Both sides are working to sign the agreement before the fishing season begins next month, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said at a press briefing.
The agreement is part of efforts to ensure the safety of fishermen in waters where the two nations’ exclusive economic zones overlap, following the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel last year.
Following the May 9 incident, the two sides have held two rounds of fishery talks and a consultation meeting, and have reached a consensus on several issues regarding maritime law enforcement cooperation, Lin said.
These include barring the use of force or violence when patrolling fishing grounds, the establishment of a mechanism to inform each other in the event of fishery incidents and agreeing to release detained fishermen and boats as quickly as possible, he said.
“The agreement will include the consensus,” he said. “We hope to hold bilateral fishery talks to sign the agreement as soon as possible,” Lin added.
The text of the agreement has nearly been finalized, with both sides still working out some of the wording, said Benjamin Ho (何登煌), director-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Based on a rotational principle, the next round of talks is likely to take place in Taipei, Ho said.
In addition to strengthening bilateral cooperation on maritime law enforcement, Taiwan will seek to advance cooperation with the Philippines in fishery management and designate an area in overlapping waters in which fishermen from both countries can operate freely, Ho added.
On May 9 last year, Philippine Coast Guard officers fired on Taiwanese fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, killing fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成). The boat was in waters where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap.
After the incident, Taiwan insisted that Manila apologize for the shooting, punish those responsible, compensate the victim’s family and hold bilateral fishery talks to prevent similar incidents.
The Philippine Department of Justice announced earlier this week that it will file homicide charges against the eight coast guard officers linked to Hung’s death.
Lin said the filing of the charges means that Manila has met the four demands made by Taipei.
In August last year, Amadeo Perez Jr, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, visited Hung’s family in Pingtung County to deliver a letter of apology on behalf of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.
The Philippine government also reached a compensation agreement with the family.