"We want to be a responsible stakeholder in the world, meaning that we should be a peacemaker, not a troublemaker." Ma Ying-jeou, April, 2008
One of the sharpest observers of Taiwan affairs I know put the Ma government's policy in perspective: "Maintaining good relations with the Philippines is really a core interest of Taiwan." But of course we're seeing the exact opposite. Several normally reticent and thoughtful people I talk to have opined that it is hard to avoid thinking that Ma's policy is to push the island closer to China by distancing it from nations which ought to be its allies. Once again, only China is benefiting from this spat. It's probably not a coincidence that Ma has been irritating relations with two of Taiwan's US-backed allies, Phils and Japan.
Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village. Dignity, autonomy, pragmatism and flexibility should be Taiwan's guiding principles when developing foreign relations. As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons. Taiwan must play a greater role in regional cooperation. By strengthening economic relations with its major trading partners, Taiwan can better integrate itself in East Asia and contribute more to the region's peace and prosperity. -- Inaugural address, May 2008.This commentary, The Thugs of Taiwan, in the Manila Standard was making the rounds of the Taiwan discussion groups this week.....
The circumstances surrounding the death of the Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih Chen, seemed lost on the people of Taiwan. The fishing boat Guang Ta Shin was caught poaching in Philippine waters. Despite warning shots from the Philippine side, the Taiwanese ship tried to ram the Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat which fired shots in self-defense.The Phils side simply has the better story -- the Taiwan side's silliness is thoroughly demonstrated in this video making the rounds on Facebook....
This is not the first time Taiwanese fishermen have been caught poaching in our waters. But like recidivists released through the intercession of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, they return to commit the same offense.
It is a sad commentary that the Philippine government is groveling before Taiwan in the face of economic and labor sanctions. What the government should do is to find an alternative for job opportunities at home. The Philippines, after all, has been getting rave reviews from international investment ratings groups like Fitch and Standard and Poor’s. Government must trickle down the upside in the Philippine economy to its own people instead of deploying them overseas as slave labor.
That video above does have one interesting remark. At one point it notes the "location" of the incident, which -- what a coincidence -- puts it 5 miles inside Taiwan's claimed area.
Similarly, Taipei is not helping itself in my mind with ...mistaken... claims, claims that the PCG deliberately murdered the crew member. In Manila, at a press conference, Global Post reported:
Chen Wen-chi, head of the Taiwan team investigating the May 9 incident, said most of the bullets had hit the fishing boat's cockpit where its crew hid.The claim that the Phils sailors were shooting at the cockpit in order to deliberately kill the crew is needlessly incendiary, making conciliation difficult, and worse, appears to be false based on easily accessible evidence. Take a moment and look carefully at the bullet trajectories deduced by the ROC government itself. They show that, just as the PCG claims, it shot at the bow and at the engine [stern] compartment [engine is usually more toward the center, I just found out]. Note also that in the cross section, the bullets to the stern are almost all below the deck. The one that killed the fisherman appears to be a stray. After making this baseless accusation, the Taiwanese team went home in a huff complaining Manila was insincere and its attitude was capricious and dishonest. LOL. With that attitude, it is no wonder Manila is not letting the investigative team from Taiwan in on the investigation. This murder claim is coming down from the top; President Ma is also trumpeting a shrill blast of cold blooded murder as well.
"By combining the... evidence, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder," Chen told a news conference in Manila.
More seriously, this willingness to ...be mistaken... causes me to question Chen Wen-chi's claim that the boat was in Taiwan's claimed zone rather than Phils territorial waters as Manila says it was.
"Taiwan is no longer a troublemaker but a peacemaker." Ma Ying-jeou, Dec, 2008The Taipei Times ran an interview with a fisherman who has had much trouble over the years in the waters around the Philippines.
"When these navy sailors and officers came aboard our boat, they would loot almost everything we had, from raincoats and videotapes to food, tissues and other materials," Chang said.The fisherman said he'd been having trouble since the early 1990s. Of course, remember that to Manila, many of these fisherman are poachers.
"If we were lucky, we were allowed to leave and go home, otherwise they would plant evidence against us and confiscate our boat. They would strip the boat’s engine and all the usable instruments. Then they would demand that we pay a heavy fine," he added.
Chang recalled elderly fishermen advising them to keep about NT$500,000 in cash on board, so if their boat was detained by Philippine seamen, giving them the cash usually could ensure the crew’s safety and the boat’s release.
“Taiwan wants to be a peacemaker in this part of the world, and to shed the once troublemaker image in the international community,” Ma said. July, 2008The excellent Philip Bowring in SCMP scolded the Ma Administration for its reaction..... and correctly identifies the racism and contempt for the too-brown Filipinos that is coloring the reaction here in Taiwan:
For sure, the Philippine coastguard was guilty of the trigger-happy behaviour so common in a country which inherited its gun culture from the US and whose armed services are not known for their discipline. But the reaction by the government in Taipei, with economic and other sanctions, is out of all proportion given that this unfortunate event was clearly the result of local misjudgment rather than the state policy of the sort which sends Chinese warships well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zones, not to mention several incidents when Chinese vessels have opened fire on Vietnamese fishing boats and killed people.Bowring put his finger on one of the major obstacles here: so often in Han culture, winning must encompass not merely attainment of objectives but also humiliation of the opponent. Bowring's review of the issues is excellent and should be read in its entirety. The Economist also had a surprisingly good piece on the issue, from the PRC angle.
For the Han chauvinists, an apology from the president of the Philippines is not enough. The Filipinos must grovel, be reminded that they, like Malays generally, are the serfs of the region. It fits well with the Hong Kong government's arrogant categorising of the country as in the same danger league as Syria because of the unnecessary loss of life in the bus hijacking incident.
The action of the Filipino coastguard was out of proportion, even assuming the fishing vessel was in Philippine waters and resisting arrest. But Taiwan's large, well-equipped fishing fleet is known almost worldwide for its contempt for others' fishing rights and the attempts to limit fishing to preserve species.
Finally, can't leave without mentioning this piece in the rabidly pro-Beijing WantWant China Times, which says the death of this fisherman could be a turning point....
Both Taiwan and the Philippines have long been allies of the United States. But the outcry in Taiwan over the killing could well push the country toward China, with Beijing only too happy to back Taiwan up.It won't, but it shows the hopeful blindness of so many in the pro-Beijing crowd, always waiting for that incident that will at last make the Taiwanese realize their true destiny is with Beijing. Forever to be disappointed....
Taipei needs to walk things back, accept some kind of apology, compensate the widow quietly, and placate Manila. All this because if Taiwanese fishermen really need access to those waters, then the government should be moving to ensure that there is no long-term anger in in Philippines over this incident. Hopefully the adults in Taipei will stand up and be counted soon.....
PS: Latest TVBS poll from May 16 has Ma's approval still at 14% and his disapproval scores actually rising, to 70%. (Thanks, FM).
Allow me to take a few minutes to share with you the relations between the two countries. If you take a flight from Laoag, Ilocos Norte to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, it would take only 38 minutes, whereas a trip from Laoag to Manila would take 45 minutes. There is even a saying that goes: “When a cock crows in the most northern parts of Luzon, the people of southern Taiwan are likewise awakened.” It is also interesting to know that the people from Batanes and those from Orchid Island speak the same language. In addition, more than 50 percent of the typhoons that hit Taiwan are exported from the Philippines. From this, it is quite clear that Taiwan and the Philippines are indispensable to each other due to their exceptional geographical proximity. Oct, 2010._______________________
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