Watching TV news reports about the ongoing diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines, veteran seafarer Chang Chang-lung (張昌隆) said he was not at all surprised.
“The trouble is due to the problem of overlapping maritime jurisdictions. If the issue is not resolved, tragedies such as this will occur again,” said Chang, a seasoned sea captain from Pingtung’s Hengchun Peninsula, who has had three perilous encounters with Philippine marine authorities.
The 58-year-old Chang has been a fisherman since his youth.
Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsian, Taipei Times
He recalled his first encounter with a Philippine vessel in 1991, when his ship sailed to about 20 degrees north latitude, a marine area Pingtung sailors call Toudiapsuan (陶疊山) in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese).
Chang said a Philippine naval vessel started approaching his ship at high speed, and he turned his ship around to get away.
“However, our boat was too slow. The Philippine vessel then started shooting at us with machine guns. All of us hid inside the boat’s cabin,” Chang said. “When we got back home, we counted more than 30 bullet holes in the boat.”
After that, Chang said he spent more than NT$3 million (US$100,370) to purchase a new fishing boat with a bigger engine.
“However, in 1997, in the same stretch of water, we were chased by Philippine naval ships and pursued by a military helicopter. Luckily we managed to escape without much damage [to the boat],” the captain said.
A third encounter came in 2001, which he described as a terrible nightmare for him and his crew.
Chang said they had just started to fish early in the morning and did not notice armed men approaching their boat in sampans. The men came aboard to search the boat.
“They had guns, so we could not put up a fight,” Chang said.
“They had a dynamite stick with them and planted it in our cabin as false evidence. We were accused of fishing illegally using dynamite, even though we have not caught anything yet,” Chang said.
His ship and crew were detained and taken to the port of Aparri, at the northern tip of Luzon Island.
Chang said they were put under house arrest for six months and the Philippine authorities demanded US$100,000 for their release.
They were only released to board a flight “to escape back to Taiwan” after paying NT$600,000 (US$19,960) in bribes to Philippine officials, through the assistance of well-connected Chinese Filipinos, Chang said.
“Along with my confiscated ship and the money spent on bribes during our six months in detention, this ‘accidental journey’ cost me about NT$5 million,” he added.
After hearing of his experience, the fishermen of Hengchun Peninsula were scared and nobody dared go into that stretch of water again, he said.
“Since then, only fishermen from Donggang [東港, another Pingtung port to the northwest of Hengchun] would go there, but they are gambling with their lives,” Chang said.
“The Philippine navy always gives us trouble. They have about 17 islands in that stretch of marine territory and they have five different naval units stationed around there,” he said.
“Even with a signed agreement on fishing around one of the islands, Philippine naval units from the other islands would still give us trouble. Filipino fishermen would report Taiwanese fishing boats’ position to their naval units. It was impossible to safeguard ourselves over there,” Chang added.
He also denounced the behavior of Filipino seamen, which he described as “atrocious.”
"When these navy sailors and officers came aboard our boat, they would loot almost everything we had, from raincoats and videotapes to food, tissues and other materials," Chang said.
"If we were lucky, we were allowed to leave and go home, otherwise they would plant evidence against us and confiscate our boat. They would strip the boat’s engine and all the usable instruments. Then they would demand that we pay a heavy fine," he added.
Chang recalled elderly fishermen advising them to keep about NT$500,000 in cash on board, so if their boat was detained by Philippine seamen, giving them the cash usually could ensure the crew’s safety and the boat’s release.
"However, the overlapping economic exclusion zones of Taiwan and the Philippines are troublesome. If our own government does not take strong action to resolve the matter, Taiwanese fishermen may have to give up this large fishing area. Or else, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 incident will not be the last," Chang said.
Tainan City Councilor Lu Kun-fu (盧崑福) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday sparked further controversy when he echoed remarks by KMT caucus whip Alex Fai (費鴻泰) that Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) should be executed for an increase in domestic COVID-19 cases. Chen heads the Central Epidemic Command Center. Lu at a question-and-answer session at the Tainan City Council said that a lapse in disease prevention measures at China Airlines, which has led to a cluster infection, could have been controlled. However, as the airline’s pilots were allowed a shortened quarantine period of three days and were placed
SUFFICIENT SUPPLY: Taiwan has an abundance of pandemic-related goods in storage, and protocols have been implemented to ensure that the supply chain is not broken Hordes of customers descended on hypermarkets and supermarkets in Taipei and New Taipei City after the government yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert level for the two municipalities to level 3 until May 28. Earlier in the day, the Central Epidemic Command Center reported 180 new domestically transmitted cases, most of them in Taipei and New Taipei City. Despite the government urging the public to stop hoarding daily necessities, shelves were stripped bare while cashiers were working as fast as they could. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) at a news conference on Friday detailed the government’s inventory of masks, medical-grade isopropyl alcohol and protective clothing,
‘STAY CALM’: The nation has more than 800 million masks in stock and can produce up to 40 million a day, while hand sanitizer stocks are also sufficient The nation has an ample supply of masks to meet demand amid concerns over an increase in the number of domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Tuesday. Taiwan has more than 800 million masks in stock, with daily production of 18.3 million units on average and maximum daily capacity of 40 million units, the ministry said on Facebook. The ministry’s assurance came after Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), on Monday said that the nation has entered the community transmission stage after several new domestic
EYES AND EARS: The navy has commissioned the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to manufacture radars to upgrade the nation’s naval monitoring stations A military enthusiast yesterday posted photographs of Taiwanese F-16 jets taking off from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu with two refueling aircraft, presumably returning to Taiwan from the US for upgrades. Asked about the matter, the Ministry of National Defense declined to comment. The jets had been part of training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and had briefly landed in Honolulu, where the photographer, Aeros808, had spotted them, a source said. The jets did not land in Guam, which had been done in 1996 when the US Air Force delivered F-16s to Taiwan, the source said, adding that the