With Taipei and Manila agreeing to forego the use of force in settling disputes at sea at a recent meeting, a pact which enormously favors Taipei since Philippines' boats rarely poach in Taiwan waters, but the reverse, alas, is all too common, the possibility of an actual fishing pact between the two sides is being raised. Discussions (a second preparatory meeting) are scheduled for July...
Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs director-general Benjamin Ho, in an interview with Taipei Times, said his government wants well-defined coastal areas where fishermen from both countries can operate freely.Over at the East Asia Forum, a commentator from the Philippines has a nifty piece discussing the possibility of a fishing agreement between Manila and Taipei. The last of Taipei's demands in the shooting case, the call for a fisheries agreement, was the most significant, he says. The writer observes:
"Our goal is to sign a fishery agreement with the Philippines ... We will continue to negotiate with the Philippines [on that issue]," the Times, a major newspaper in China and Taiwan, quoted Ho as saying.
Ho added that the next meeting will likely be held in July involving both countries' fishery, foreign affairs and maritime security officials.
The report added that the second preparatory meeting to take place in Taipei will "pave the way for fishery talks between the two countries."
Yet a fishery agreement at this point in time could be disadvantageous for the Philippines. For one, Taiwan has a more developed commercial fishing industry than the Philippines. In fact, at present, the operation of Taiwanese fishing vessels off Batanes and Cagayan in northern Philippines has been a perennial complaint of many local Filipinos, notably artisanal fishermen since many poachers were caught well within coastal or municipal waters. Thus, any joint fishing cooperation in the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones of both countries will only increase Taiwan’s advantages. For some, a fisheries agreement would essentially amount to legalising poaching under the façade of cooperation.He also observes that the "demanding, haughty (if not outright bullying)" way in which the Ma Administration demanded the agreements has been offputting for Filipinos. Indeed, fishing associations in the Philippines are already demanding that Manila put a stop to any negotiations:
There are also practical impediments to an agreement to cooperate to curb illegal fishing. Foreign poaching is rampant in northern Philippine waters, and losses are tremendous, amounting to some P75–P150 million ($US1.8–3.5 million) every year. But because of its inadequate maritime law enforcement capabilities, Manila was only able to apprehend 108 foreign nationals for illegal fishing from 2006–2012. The Philippines’ limited enforcement capabilities would also make it difficult for it to monitor or supervise the conduct of joint fishing activities.
It described a potential deal as being like handing the nation's marine wealth on a silver platter to Taiwan at the expense of the sovereignty and territorial rights of the Philippines' 100 million people.See also The Manila Standard. It seems likely that in the end negotiations will stall over domestic opposition in Philippines, and the situation will return to status quo ante, with Taiwanese fisherman poaching and Philippines being able to do little and less about it.
"Taiwan wants unlimited fishing access in the Philippines and that is the real score and the Manila government seems like ready to give in to the request," the group said in the statement.
A Taiwan-centric government would make maintenance of relations with Philippines a key priority. Let's hope that the public bullying that Taipei inflicted on Manila during the fracas over the shooting of the fisherman does not appear in the private talks over the fisheries pact.
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