TAIPEI - Taiwan hopes to sign a fishery cooperation pact with the Philippines before July to better protect the lives of Taiwanese fishermen in disputed areas of the South China Sea, a Taiwanese official said Tuesday.
Benjamin Ho, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said he now expects the agreement will be signed no later than end of the fishing season in July.
Last month, Ho had told reporters that Taiwan hoped the agreement could be signed before the start of the fishing season, which began in the first half of April.
Ho said Tuesday that although progress was achieved in talks held earlier this month, some differences remain.
He said that while the agreement is yet to be signed, both sides have already begun implementing a consensus on cooperation in law enforcement in disputed waters, which was reached in the wake of a fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in May last year.
The incident triggered a bilateral crisis and led Taipei to impose sanctions on Manila and demand corrective 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.
The Philippine Justice Department has also filed homicide charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel and an obstruction of justice case against two of them in connection with the shooting.
Taiwan hopes that after the agreement is signed, both sides can 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 which claim them.