TAIPEI - Taiwan hopes to conclude a fishery cooperation agreement with the Philippines next month to better protect the lives of Taiwanese fishermen in disputed areas of the South China Sea, Foreign Minister David Lin said Thursday.
Speaking in a press briefing, Lin said Taipei and Manila have already reached a consensus on cooperation in law enforcement in the disputed waters, which he hopes will be enshrined in the agreement before the fishing season begins next month.
"Since the fishing season is approaching, we hope the agreement could be signed before the fishing season," he said.
Benjamin Ho, director general of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Taiwan hopes the agreement can be signed on or around April 10.
Li's remarks come just two days after the Philippine Justice Department approved the filing of homicide charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel in connection with a fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters in May last year.
The incident triggered a bilateral crisis and led Taipei to impose sanctions on Manila and demand correction action.
In three rounds of talks since then, Manila has agreed to have its coast guard personnel avoid the use of force against Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters and to follow procedures in accordance with international maritime law when detaining such vessels.
The two sides have established an emergency hotline to notify each other in the event of fishery disputes or incidents.
After the agreement is signed, Huang said, the next step is to negotiate another fishery agreement following the model of the Taiwan-Japan fishery pact.
Under the Taiwan-Japan agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen are allowed to freely operate in a jointly controlled provisional sea zone around the Japan-controlled Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China and as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.