Taipei, Manila make progress in fishery cooperation talks

By Ko Shu-ling, Kyodo News

Posted at Apr 10 2014 08:37 PM | Updated as of Apr 11 2014 05:03 AM

TAIPEI - Taiwanese and Philippine fishery officials have made progress in negotiations meant to better protect the lives of Taiwanese fishermen in disputed areas of the South China Sea, a Taiwanese official told Kyodo News on Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said "a lot of concrete progress has been achieved" in the talks held earlier this week.

"However, some differences remain," she said.

Among them is Manila's concern as to whether Taiwanese fishing boats and fishermen will abide by related rules and refrain from entering its territorial waters.

Taipei and Manila have already reached a consensus on cooperation in law enforcement in the disputed waters, which Taiwan hopes will be enshrined in an agreement before the fishing season begins later this month.

Benjamin Ho, director general of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said last month that Taiwan hoped the agreement could be signed on or around April 10.

Ho's remarks came 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.

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.

Taiwan hopes that after the agreement is signed, both sides could 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.