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Taiwanese fishermen urge fishery deal with the Philippines

Taiwanese fishermen urge fishery deal with the Philippines

Taipei, May 23 (CNA) Taiwanese fishermen and representatives of fishermen's associations on Thursday urged Taiwan's government to start talks on a fishery agreement with the Philippines to safeguard their rights at sea. "I'm too scared to go there again," 53-year-old fisherman Chen Chia-shun told CNA, referring to the overlapping economic zone between Taiwan and the Philippines, where a Taiwanese fisherman was killed by a Philippine maritime patrol on May 9. The captain from Donggang Township in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, who operates a 60-ton boat, said Taiwanese fishing boats are often chased in the overlapping waters, and he once had a close escape from a Philippine vessel. "I was chased when catching bluefin tuna. I threw sticks and fishing nets into the sea as obstacles to slow them down," said Chen. "If we cross the border and steal fish, it is our fault. It is ok to fine us. But boundaries need to be drawn," Chen said, urging the government to conduct regular patrols near the overlapping waters and speed up fishery talks with the Philippines to define each other's maritime boundaries. "With Japan, we fishermen know where we can't go. With the Philippines we don't know." Hung Yu-wang, a 53-year-old fisherman from Pingtung's Liuqiu Township, also said he hopes the government would "try its best to settle fishing rights disputes with the Philippines." Meanwhile, Lin Chi-chang, general manager of Taiwan's National Fishermen's Association said Taiwanese fisherman have long been harassed or have had their boats detained by the Philippines in the Bashi Channel between the two countries. Since there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries, the fishermen can only resolve the disputes by paying ransoms to get their boats back, Lin said, adding that the ransom varies from case to case. He said diminishing fishing stocks in Taiwan's near sea area and the pressure from soaring fuel prices have prompted fishermen to venture into the overlapping economic zones, with the hope of catching high value fish, such as bluefin tuna. "They have to go there for a living," Lin said, explaining why many Taiwanese fishermen still visit the overlapping zone even when they feel it is dangerous there. He said a fishery agreement between Taiwan and the Philippines is "necessary" as it defines boundaries and prevents trespassing. It could also provide a platform for real-time communication to clarify common problems such as whether an approaching boat is an official vessel, fishing boat or pirate ship, Lin said. He said the family of the dead Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng demands to know the truth about the killing, is waiting for a formal apology from the Philippine government and hopes that a fishery deal can soon be concluded between the two sides. "That way, they think, Hung Shih-cheng would not have died in vain," he said. A Philippine coast guard surveillance vessel opened fire on a Pingtung registered fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, on May 9, killing the 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, Hung, in overlapping waters of the two countries' exclusive economic zones. Amid escalating tensions between the countries after the incident, Taiwan's Navy and Coast Guard Administration held a joint exercise in the overlapping zone in the Bashi Channel on May 16. The number of bluefin tuna caught off Pingtung County has increased significantly as a result of the government's intensified efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen, a fishermen's association in Donggang Township said Wednesday. President Ma Ying-jeou pledged that day that Taiwan's Coast Guard will conduct routine patrols to protect the country's fishermen to prevent any recurrence of the May 9 incident. (By Christie Chen)


Updated : 2021-01-20 14:07 GMT+08:00