Taiwan ready for fishery talks with Philippines: official

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) Taiwan is ready to start fishery talks with the Philippines, an official said Sunday, a day after President Ma Ying-jeou called for such negotiations in light of the recent shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in an overlapping economic zone of the two countries. Taiwan is prepared to talk with the Philippines over fishing disputes and can begin the negotiations any time, said Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha. The remarks came against the backdrop of an incident in which a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, was shot dead in an encounter with a Philippine government patrol boat May 9. Taiwan's foreign ministry said the shooting took place in the overlapping waters of the two countries, some 170 nautical miles off Taiwan's southern coast. However, the Philippines said the incident occurred in its waters and that its personnel had only been carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing, according to a foreign news wire report. Taiwan has called on the Philippines to issue a formal apology, compensate the victim's family for their loss, investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators, and start fishery agreement talks with Taiwan as soon as possible, according to a Presidential Office statement issued late Saturday. If the Philippines fails to respond appropriately by midnight Tuesday, Taiwan will suspend importation of Philippine labor, recall its representative in Manila, and ask the Philippine envoy in Taiwan to return to his home country, the Presidential Office said. Fishing disputes have been a point of contention between Taiwan and the Philippines because of their overlapping economic zones. Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Tsai Jih-yao said Taiwan has long been interested in negotiating a fishery agreement with the Philippines but Manila had been cool on the matter. Taiwan and the Philippines, however, have set up a working group to deal with fishing disputes involving fishermen from both sides, he said. The group was formed under a memorandum of understanding on fishery and agriculture cooperation signed by the two sides in 2005. (By Lin Meng-ju, Elaine Hou and Scully Hsiao)