Philippines to put new patrol boats in overlapping waters with Taiwan

Manila, June 3 (CNA) The Philippines will deploy several new patrol boats in waters off the northern parts of the Southeast Asian country, where its exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Taiwan, a senior Philippine coast guard officer said Wednesday. The Philippines is expected to receive 10 multi-role patrol boats from Japan soon. The boats come at a time when Manila is facing Beijing's increasing efforts to stake its territorial claim in the South China Sea, the Philippine media reported. The boats will be used to patrol waters surrounding the country and protect its fishery resources, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Some of the new 40-meter boats will be deployed in waters in the northern Philippines, the officer added. Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) issued a statement Wednesday confirming a stand-off with Taiwan's Coast Guard last week. The incident occurred when the PCG apprehended Taiwanese fishing vessel, the "Ming Jin Cai No. 6," 18 nautical miles northeast of the Philippines' Batanes Islands May 25, it said. The PCG was towing the fishing boat when a Taiwanese Coast Guard cutter appeared, blocked the Philippine patrol vessel and demanded the release of the fishing boat, it said. After four hours of negotiation, the Taiwanese fishing boat was released. The Philippine statement came after Taiwan's Coast Guard released a video of the stand-off on Monday. The incident resulted from differences of opinion between the two sides on the scope of law enforcement duties by the respective authorities. Once foreign fishing boats enter waters within 24 nautical miles of the Philippines' contiguous zone -- an area contiguous to its territorial sea -- they are subject to inspection or even detention, a Philippine official has said, citing an administrative decree issued by the country in 2014. Taiwan, however, does not consider the Philippines' claim of rights in a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles as compliant with international law and sees the area between 12 nautical miles and 24 nautical miles off the Philippine coast as part of an exclusive economic zone in which Taiwanese fishing boats can operate legally. Fishery authorities from the two neighbors are set to hold a meeting in Taipei soon to address the matter. The meeting follows three fishing incidents in May, two of which involved Taiwanese fishing boats in the overlapping economic zone of the two countries, while the other incident took place in Philippine territorial waters. The incidents happened as both countries are trying to sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in their overlapping economic waters. The agreement covers a consensus reached by the two countries, including 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 as soon as possible. Taiwan and the Philippines have been negotiating the pact since late 2013, one of a series of steps taken to improve relations after Philippine Coast Guard officers shot up a Taiwanese fishing boat May 9, 2013 in waters where the two countries' exclusive economic zones overlap, killing a Taiwanese fisherman. Although the agreement has yet to be signed, both Taiwanese and Philippine officials have said that law enforcement authorities on each side have been implementing the consensus in an effort to avoid fishing disputes. (By Emerson Lim and Elaine Hou)