Taipei and Manila set to hold further fisheries meetings

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan and the Philippines have reached an agreement to hold their next meeting in Taipei soon in preparation for formal fishery talks, as part of efforts to address fishing disputes in contested waters, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said late on Sunday.

The second preparatory meeting is expected to be held within a month, said Benjamin Ho (何登煌), director-general of the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Ho’s remarks came as bilateral relations returned to normal, after Taipei on Thursday last week lifted a series of sanctions that had been imposed against the Philippines over its handling of the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in May.

Issues on the agenda of the preparatory meeting are likely to include an agreement that would cover the full consensus reached in the first meeting in June, and discussion of defining areas in which fishermen from Taiwan and the Philippines would be allowed to operate, Ho said.

In the first preparatory meeting on June 14, the two sides reached an initial consensus on several issues, including no use of force during patrols of fishing grounds and establishing an information sharing mechanism in the event of fishery incidents.

“During the next meeting, we hope to sign an agreement or a memorandum of understanding that would cover the previous consensus,” Ho said.

Taipei is also hoping to sign a fishing agreement with Manila, Ho said, adding that the Taiwan-Japan fishing pact is a model that could be followed.

Relations between Taiwan and the Philippines had been strained since May 9, when Philippine Coast Guard personnel attacked a Taiwanese fishing boat in an overlapping exclusive economic zone of the two countries, resulting in the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).

Relation have improved recently with Manila’s positive response to four demands made by Taiwan soon after the incident.

Taipei had insisted that Manila formally apologize for the shooting, punish those responsible, compensate the victim’s family and hold bilateral fishery talks to prevent any reoccurrence of such an incident.

When the Philippines initially balked at the demands, Taiwan imposed several punitive measures on May 15, including a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan and a travel alert to discourage Taiwanese from visiting the Philippines.

The sanctions were lifted on Thursday last week after the government’s demands were met.