Basilio vows fishery talks by year’s end

IN WRITING::Manila’s representative to Taiwan said an aim of the next meeting, delayed due to an insurgency in the Philippines, was to formalize a consensus reached in June

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Oct 01, 2013 - Page 4

The next fisheries meeting between Taipei and Manila will “definitely” be held by the end of this year, after which it is possible that both sides will issue a joint statement to address bilateral fishing disputes in overlapping waters, Manila Economic and Culture Office Managing Director Antonio Basilio said over the weekend.

“Definitely, before the end of this year, we will have the fishery talks,” Basilio told media on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Culture Day event in Taipei on Saturday.

It has been more than three months since the two sides held their first round of preparatory talks in Manila on June 14 to address fisheries disputes in contested waters.

During the meeting, both sides reached an initial consensus, which included an agreement that no force or violence be used during patrols of fishing grounds and that a mechanism be established with which to inform each other of any fishery-related incidents.

In the next round of preparatory talks, both sides plan to discuss issues regarding law enforcement in Taiwan and the Philippines, with the aim of ensuring that a shooting incident that occurred in their overlapping exclusive economic zones earlier this year will not happen again, Basilio said.

Asked if the two sides would issue a joint statement that includes the consensus in the next meeting, he said that was “the objective.”

“We will put that [the consensus] down in writing and we will also discuss many details that will make sure they are in accordance with both Taiwan and Philippines laws,” Basilio said.

A joint statement is expected to strengthen the legal effect of the consensus reached in June.

The next round of preparatory talks were originally scheduled for Sept. 16, but got pushed back because of fighting between Muslim rebels and government forces in the southern Philippines, said Benjamin Ho (何登煌), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

The incident that led to the fisheries negotiations occurred on May 9, when Philippine Coast Guard personnel fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat in waters where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap. Hung Shih-cheng (洪石城), a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, was killed in the shooting.

Following the incident, Taiwan imposed sanctions against the Philippines, including a travel alert for the Philippines and a freeze on the hiring of Filipinos.

After a months-long diplomatic tussle over the shooting, the Philippines met Taiwan’s conditions for settling the dispute, including agreeing to hold fisheries talks.The sanctions were lifted in early August.

The two-day event attended by Basilio was organized by the ministry to showcase the food and culture of 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines.

The Philippines’ booth offered samples of its cuisine and displayed pictures of its beaches.

The booth was part of Manila’s efforts to “promote tourism and welcome Taiwanese visitors back to the Philippines,” Basilio said, adding that friendly bilateral relations had been restored.