The Philippines is about to sign a law-enforcement cooperation agreement with Taiwan over fisheries matters in waters where the two nations’ economic zones overlap, the Philippines’ representative to Taiwan said on Thursday.
The two sides are also to work to advance bilateral trade relations, Antonio Basilio said.
Although last year saw perhaps “the most severe” test in bilateral ties, both sides have made efforts to overcome difficulties, Basilio said at an event to celebrate the Philippines’ national day in Taipei.
After a Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead on May 9 last year by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in waters where the nations’ exclusive economic zones overlap, the nations have been discussing an agreement on maritime law enforcement cooperation,
The incident, as well as the Philippines’ initial handling of it, caused relations to plunge to their worst level in years, with Taiwan imposing a freeze on hiring Filipino migrant workers, among other sanctions.
During a series of fishery meetings following the shooting incident, both sides have reached consensus on several issues regarding maritime law enforcement, Basilio said.
These include prohibiting the use of force or violence when patrolling fishing grounds; the establishment of communications mechanisms to inform each other of fishery incidents; and the release of detained fishermen and boats as soon as possible.
Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Shih (石定), who also attended the event, said that once the agreement is signed, the safety of fishermen from both countries would be further protected.
Meanwhile, Basilio highlighted bilateral efforts to further trade relations between the two countries.
“Toward the last quarter of this year, we will convene our Joint Economic Committee to discuss ways to expand trade and investments,” including the results of research by both sides into an agreement on economic partnership, he said.
Taiwan is the Philippines’ closest neighbor and has been an important partner for the Southeast Asian country, Basilio told hundreds of participants at the event, which was attended by many foreign officials based in Taiwan.
Taiwan is also the sixth-largest trading partner for the Philippines, Basilio said.
Echoing Basilio’s remarks, Shih said he hopes that the two nations will sign an economic cooperation agreement and enhance cooperation in other areas.
This year marks the 116th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day.
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