Fishing incident between Taiwan, Philippines resolved: minister

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) An incident in which the captain and crew of a Taiwanese fishing boat were detained in the Philippines last week for alleged poaching has been resolved, Foreign Minister David Lin (???) said Thursday. After completing immigration procedures, the Pingtung-registered "Sheng Feng No. 12" and its crew will be able to leave Basco, the capital of Batanes, the Philippines' northernmost province, where they had been detained over the past few days, said Lin. The crew -- two Taiwanese and four Indonesians -- and their boat are likely to leave the Philippines as early as Thursday afternoon, Lin told the local media on the sidelines of a book launch. They were released and allowed to return home Wednesday after paying a fine of US$50,000. "The incident has been resolved, and we hope similar cases will not occur again," Lin said, while calling on Taiwanese fishermen to respect the Philippines' fishery laws and its territorial waters. The "Sheng Feng No. 12" was passing through waters 6.5 nautical miles from Yami island, among the Batanes Islands in the northern Philippines, on May 7 when inspectors on a Philippine ship approached and boarded the fishing boat to investigate possible poaching, according to a fishermen's association in Pingtung's Liouciou, where the boat is based. The fishing boat departed on May 6, bound for Davao in the southern Philippines, but was held in waters off Batanes Islands, the association said. The incident came as Taiwan and the Philippines are trying to sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in fishing matters in their overlapping economic waters. Taiwan and the Philippines have been negotiating an agreement on maritime law enforcement cooperation since late 2013, one of the steps taken to improve relations after Philippine Coast Guard officers shot at a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9, 2013 in waters where the two countries' exclusive economic zones overlap. Following the shooting, a series of fishery meetings were held to try to get relations back on track, and the two sides reached consensus on several issues regarding maritime law enforcement cooperation. These include no use of force or violence when patrolling fishing grounds, the establishment of a mechanism to inform each other in the event of fishery incidents, and the release of detained fishermen and boats in an expedited manner. Although the agreement has yet to be signed, both sides have been implementing the consensus, Taiwanese and Philippine officials have said. Lin said the handling of the latest incident by the Philippine authorities was in line with the bilateral consensus. (By Elaine Hou)