Taiwanese boat still detained by Philippines on poaching allegations

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) A Taiwanese fishing vessel and its six-member crew remained detained in the Philippines on suspicion of poaching in that country's territorial waters, as an investigation into the incident continued, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday. The Pingtung-registered "Sheng Feng No. 12" and its crew remained detained after the boat was towed into Basco, the capital of Batanes, the Philippines' northernmost province, for further investigation. "Our representative office in the Philippines has sent personnel to Basco to help deal with the matter, and they arrived earlier in the day," ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao (??) said at a news conference. "We will continue to negotiate with the Philippine authorities and will urge them to release the boat and the fishermen as soon as the investigation is completed," she said. A Philippine patrol ship spotted the boat early Thursday morning while it was 6.5 nautical miles off the coast of Batanes, according to preliminary findings. As the Taiwanese boat was found to be within Philippine territorial waters, it was boarded and searched by Philippine inspectors. The boat's captain and engineer are Taiwanese, while the four other crew members are from Indonesia, Kao said, adding that they are all safe. Asked about the captain's argument that his ship was merely passing through the waters and was not poaching, Elliott Charng (???), director-general of the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that further investigation will be needed to determine whether the boat was illegally fishing in Philippine waters. Philippine laws dictate that all foreign fishing vessels found within its territorial waters are considered to be suspected poachers. Offenders face administrative fines ranging from US$50,000 to US$200,000. In addition to having their hauls, equipment and vessels seized, offenders face additional fines of US$100,000 if found guilty by a Philippine court. The fishermen's association in Pingtung's Liouciou, where the boat is based, said Friday that the boat was just passing through the waters and was not fishing at the time of its apprehension. (By Elaine Hou and Kuo Chih-hsuan)