The Philippines plans to deploy several new patrol boats in waters off its northern regions, where its exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Taiwan, a senior Philippine Coast Guard officer said yesterday.
The Philippines is expected to receive 10 multirole patrol boats from Japan soon. The boats come as Manila and other South China Sea claimants — including Taiwan — face Beijing’s increasing efforts to solidify its disputed territorial claims, Philippine news outlets reported.
The boats are to patrol waters surrounding the Philippines and to protect its fishery resources, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some of the new 40m boats are to be deployed in waters in the northern Philippines, the officer added.
Separately, the Philippine Coast Guard issued a statement yesterday confirming a standoff with a Coast Guard Administration vessel last week.
The incident occurred when the Philippine Coast Guard apprehended a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Ming Jin Cai No. 6, 18 nautical miles (33.3km) northeast of the Philippines’ Batan Islands on May 25, it said.
The Philippine Coast Guard was towing the fishing boat when a Taiwanese cutter appeared, blocked the Philippine vessel and demanded the release of the fishing boat, it said.
After four hours of negotiation, the fishing boat was released.
The Philippine statement came after the Coast Guard Administration released a video of the standoff on Monday.
The incident resulted from differences of opinion between the two sides on the scope of law enforcement duties by the respective authorities.
Once foreign fishing boats enter waters within 24 nautical miles of the Philippines’ contiguous zone — an area contiguous to its territorial sea — they are subject to inspection or even detention, a Philippine official has said, citing an administrative decree issued by the country last year.
Taiwan, however, 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 between 12 nautical miles and 24 nautical miles off the Philippine coast as part of an exclusive economic zone in which Taiwanese fishing boats can operate legally.
Fishery authorities from the two nations are set to hold a meeting in Taipei soon to address the matter. The meeting follows three fishing incidents last month, two of which involved Taiwanese fishing boats in the overlapping economic zone of the two countries, while the other incident took place in Philippine territorial waters.
The incidents happened as both countries are trying to sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in their overlapping economic waters. The agreement covers a consensus reached by the two countries, including 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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