needed on Philippines
Public outrage over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by a Philippine
government vessel last week is more than a national sentiment. The tragic event
is a reminder of the dangerous situation Taiwanese fishermen have faced over the
years operating in disputed waters, and adds a new incident in ongoing conflicts
over the South China Sea. President Ma Ying-jeou¡¦s (°¨^¤E) administration must
take a tough stance to protect our fishermen¡¦s rights and resolve fishing
disputes between the two countries.
Under pressure from the public, Ma on Saturday issued an ultimatum to the
Philippines, demanding that it arrest those responsible for the death of the
fisherman, issue a formal apology, compensate the victim¡¦s family and launch
negotiations on fishery agreements with Taiwan.
Ma said that if Manila failed to respond to these demands within 72 hours, the
government would freeze Philippine worker applications, recall the Republic of
China (ROC) representative in Manila and ask the Philippine representative in
Taiwan to return to Manila to help in the investigation.
In view of Manila¡¦s defense of the shooting as having been carried out while
trying to prevent illegal fishing in its waters, the ultimatum will hardly
pressure Philippine authorities to take responsibility for the incident. Tougher
efforts are needed to protect Taiwanese fishermen¡¦s rights and maintain national
Rival territorial claims in the South China Sea among competing nations vying
for valuable fishing and energy resources have caused tensions for years, and
Taiwanese fishermen have been arrested and detained by the Philippines in the
By opening fire on the Taiwanese fishing boat and killing the fisherman, the
Philippines has violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which bans use
of force against any unarmed fishing boat. The Ma administration should not
passively wait for ¡§positive responses¡¨ from the Philippines.
In addition to intensifying patrols in disputed waters to protect fishermen¡¦s
fishing rights, the government should demand that Manila immediately start
negotiating a fishery agreement.
The newly signed Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement covering the Diaoyutai Islands
(³¨³½¥x), which allows fishing vessels from both countries to operate in a large
area within the designated zone without being subject to the jurisdiction of the
other side, should serve as a model for a pact with Manila.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday gave Philippine Representative
Antonio Basilio a copy of the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement, but the
Philippine government has yet to respond to the proposal.
The Philippines¡¦ adherence to a ¡§one China¡¨ policy has been a major political
obstacle to signing fisheries agreement with Taiwan in the past, and tensions in
the South China Sea have been raised in recent months due to China¡¦s claims of
its sovereignty over the area.
The government¡¦s success in concluding 17 years of negotiations with Japan and
expanding fishing rights in the East China Sea came at a time when diplomatic
tension between China and Japan has escalated.
In the attempt to negotiate an agreement with the Philippines, the government
should consider the leverage we can use and create more advantages if it seeks
to follow the negotiation model of the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement.
After the Ma administration issued its ultimatum to the Philippines, one thing
was clear: The public demands a tough stance from the government. The
authorities must show their determination. It must bring more pressure to bear
on Manila to negotiate and ensure there will not be a repeat of Thursday¡¦s