Taipei has lodged a severe protest against Manila over its enforcement of fishing law in overlapping territorial waters between the two nations where Taiwanese fishing vessels have the right to operate, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday.
Lin said he hoped the next round of negotiations between the two nations, scheduled to take place next month, would end controversies over fishing rights in the overlapping exclusive economic zones, which also lie in the contiguous area, 12 nautical miles (22km) beyond territorial seas or 24 nautical miles seaward from the baseline of the Philippines.
An agreement on cooperative enforcement of fisheries laws between Taiwan and the Philippines is expected to be signed soon, since both sides have gone through three rounds of negotiations on its content since May 2013, Lin said.
Lin made the remarks when approached for comment yesterday over an incident on Thursday, in which the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) sent a patrol vessel to protect a Pingtung-registered fishing boat, the Sheng Yu Feng, allegedly being chased by a Philippine government vessel in the overlapping waters.
It was the third fishing dispute between the two countries in three weeks, following the one-week detention of the Sheng Feng No. 12 — which was released after paying a US$50,000 fine — on May 7 and the boarding by Philippine law enforcement agents of the Ming Chin Tsai No. 6 on Monday.
The boat was not released until nearly four hours later, when the CGA sent a patrol vessel to intervene.
Taiwan and the Philippines reached a consensus on maritime law enforcement cooperation to avoid a repeat of a fatal incident, in which a Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), was shot and killed on May 9, 2013, when Philippine Coast Guard officers fired on his fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsin No. 28 in the disputed waters.
According to the consensus, both sides have pledged not to use force or violence when patrolling fishing grounds and agreed to inform each other in the event of sea disputes and cooperate in handling the detention and release of fishing crews.
The boarding of Ming Chin Tsai No. 6 has cast doubt on the Philippines’ compliance with the consensus, because Manila failed to inform Taiwan’s fishing authority one hour before it took enforcement action so that the targeted fishing boats could leave the scene, according to the ministry’s report presented to the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
According to the report, the ministry said that the Philippines promulgated an administrative decree in April last year that excludes the application of the one-hour notification mechanism that both sides agreed upon in its law enforcement within its contiguous waters.
Lin said the ministry expressed its position to the Philippines soon after the promulgation that the unilateral change made to the consensus was not accepted by Taiwan.
“Both sides are still at odds over the scope of law enforcement by respective authorities and we hope the difference can be ironed out in June’s negotiations,” Lin said yesterday.
In Manila, an anonymous Philippine official told the Central News Agency on Thursday that pursuant to the administrative decree, once foreign fishing boats enter its contiguous zone, they are subject to inspection or even detention.
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