Penghu County fishermen protested against a military exercise set for this week by sailing 26 fishing boats into a planned firing range off of Magong (馬公).
The area’s residents and local fishermen’s association organized the marine blockade on Wednesday, the first day of the live-fire drill conducted by the Penghu Defense Command, in prelude to training for the Han Kuang military exercises, which are due to take place this year from Monday through Friday next week.
Fishermen spokesperson Chen Chang-ming (陳長明) said that they wanted to protest against the destruction of marine habitats and the killing of fishery stock by explosions of military ordnance, as well as draw attention to damage to buildings from blast-related shock waves.
“Past military exercises have caused extensive damage to the Heavenly God Temple, which is the major worship center for residents around here, which has had to be reconstructed about every 10 years,” Chen said.
Sailing 26 boats into the firing range off Shanshui Beach, the fishermen stifled the planned military exercise.
Wu Yuan-li (吳遠里), head of Penghu Defense Command’s Political Warfare Department, said due to the protest, the drill was conducted without live firing of ordinance and no blasts occurred.
“We also scaled down the drill, cutting down from a five-day drill to three days, and from a two-hour exercise to just one,” Wu added.
Chen said that the fishermen had requested compensation for the damage to the temple, but have yet to receive a definitive answer, so residents have decided to protest indefinitely and to blockade nearby areas during future military exercises.
In response, Wu said the Penghu Defense Command had allocated NT$2 million (US$66,000) as a ‘community charity fund’ to benefit residents,” an amount that has been increased to NT$4 million this year.
“As for the temple’s rebuilding plan, we are unable to provide any financial support, because it falls outside the scope of the community charity fund’s intended purpose,” Wu said.
“We will continue to speak with the local residents and fishermen. We hope they can support the staging of military exercises in the area,” Wu added.
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