Taipei, Manila set to sign maritme law agreement

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, May 27, 2015 - Page 3

Taiwan and the Philippines are soon to sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in their overlapping economic waters, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday.

The two sides have agreed on the text of the pact, Lin said.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which represents the Philippines’ interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic relations, is waiting for authorization from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III before signing the agreement, Lin said.

“I believe the pact will be signed soon,” he said, expecting it to be signed by the end of this year.

Lin was asked about an incident a day earlier in which the Philippine Coast Guard intercepted Taiwanese fishing vessel Ming Jin Cai No. 6 in an area where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap.

The Coast Guard Administration arrived at the scene shortly after to protect the Taiwanese ship, and Taiwanese officials in the Philippines negotiated with Philippine officials on the matter. The boat was released within four hours.

Lin said the agreement on law enforcement cooperation covers the consensus the two countries have reached, but the scope of law enforcement by respective authorities requires more talks.

He expressed hope that a working group set up by the two countries to address fishing disputes would handle such matters.

Separately, during a visit to the Penghu Fishermen’s Association yesterday, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平) called on Taiwanese fishing boats to abide by the law.

She urged commercial fishers to heed the Philippines’ new fishery law to avoid being intercepted by Philippine authorities.

Her ministry would soon update the association so it may discuss the status of the fishery law enforcement pact, she said.

Taiwan and the Philippines have been negotiating an agreement on maritime law enforcement cooperation since late 2013 to improve relations after Philippine Coast Guard officers fired upon a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9, 2013, killing 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) in waters where the nation’s exclusive economic zones overlap.

The shooting sparked outrage in Taiwan and harmed relations.

During meetings after the shooting, the two sides agreed upon several issues of maritime law enforcement cooperation, namely 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.

Although the pact has yet to be signed, Taiwanese and Philippine officials have said that authorities on each side have been implementing the consensus to avoid disputes.