Taiwan and the Philippines might start follow-up discussions next week on cooperative law enforcement in their overlapping marine economic areas, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.
Taiwanese and Philippine fishery officials are due to meet in Taipei for negotiations on matters such as the scope of such law enforcement by the authorities in each nation, Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Director-General Elliot Charng (常以立) said at a routine news briefing.
He said the two nations were still trying to finalize the date for the meeting, but it might be held as early as next week.
The negotiations are being held in the wake of two incidents involving Taiwanese fishing boats in an overlapping economic zone and another incident in Philippine territorial waters last month.
In the latest incident last week, a Taiwanese boat sailing 24 nautical miles (44.5km) off the coast of the Philippines was reportedly harassed by the Philippine Coast Guard, but it left after the Coast Guard Administration sent a patrol vessel to protect the fishing boat.
The meeting is part of an effort by Taipei and Manila to resolve their differences on the scope of law enforcement by their respective authorities, especially in contiguous zones, Charng said.
Once foreign fishing boats enter waters within 24 nautical miles of the Philippine contiguous zone, an area contiguous to its territorial sea, they are subject to inspection or even detention, a Philippine official said, citing an administrative decree issued by the country last year.
However, Taiwan does not consider the Philippines’ claim of rights in a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles as compliant with international law and sees the area of between 12 and 24 nautical miles off the Philippines as part of an exclusive economic zone in which Taiwanese fishing boats can operate legally.
Until both sides reach an agreement on the issue, the Coast Guard Administration will continue its efforts to protect Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the area, the ministry said.
Despite their differences on the scope of law enforcement, Taiwan and the Philippines are to sign an agreement on guidelines for cooperative law enforcement in their overlapping economic waters, Charng said.
Taiwan and the Philippines have been negotiating an agreement on maritime law enforcement cooperation since late 2013. It was one of the steps taken to improve relations after Philippine Coast Guard officers shot at a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9, 2013, in an overlapping area of the two nations’ exclusive economic zones.
A Taiwanese crew member was killed in the incident, sparking outrage in Taiwan and a deterioration of bilateral relations.
During a series of meetings following that incident, the two sides reached a consensus on several issues regarding maritime law enforcement cooperation.
The consensus included no 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 the release of detained fishermen and boats as soon as possible.
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