Sunday, May 19, 2013

Phils/Taiwan Mess, Take 5: Troublemaker, not Peacemaker edition

The small, upscale farmers market in front of the Splendor Hotel in downtown Taichung.
"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
Yes, all over East Asia stupidity meters are exploding. The madness has gone mainstream, with the big media slowly weighing in with reports that Something is Happening Out Here and it is important, although of course not nearly as important as the latest adjustments to Kim Kardashian's tits.

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.

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.
The Phils side simply has the better story -- the Taiwan side's silliness is thoroughly demonstrated in this video making the rounds on Facebook....

...whose story is simplistic in the extreme, lacking any serious discussion of the incident. Meanwhile the Phils side tells a story involving poachers that has a long and totally sympathetic history.

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.

"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.
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.

More seriously, this willingness to 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, 2008
The 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.

"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.
The fisherman said he'd been having trouble since the early 1990s. Of course, remember that to Manila, many of these fisherman are poachers.
“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, 2008
The 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.

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.
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.

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.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

If the PCG crew were aiming to murder them, would they not be all dead by now? Based on the trajectory you posted in a previous posts, the PCG seem to be quite good shooters as most were at the engine area. Bear in mind these are two moving boats!

Domenic said...

Aren't the crews of these ships often manned by immigrant fisherman from countries around SE Asia including the Philipines? It seems unlikely that the Philipine CG would shoot to kill when possibly their own citizens might be be aboard. But then, maybe not.

franz said...

this is a case of the "servant slapping the master" the taiwanese sense of indignation does not stem from the fisherman's death, it stems from the fact that an "inferior race" had the nerve to actually try to enforce it's own laws, the superiority complex trickles down to the taiwanese fisherman who trample on everyone elses sea boundaries and cry "foul" or "pirates" when they are caught red handed ( taiwan is know to be the worst offender) whilst the phlippine response was heavy handed the fishermen weren't angels in this scenario either.

Anonymous said...

you get the feeling that it's a case of the "servant slapping the master" the real issue here is that the taiwanese see the filipinos as an inferior race,the fisherman's death is a secondary issue. it is the color of the hand that dealt the deed that outrages taiwan more so than the act itself. "how dare these lowly filipinos strike at us"

Mike Fagan said...

That video is a joke; it reads like a troll-comment Flora Faun might leave on my blog ("Liar! Who is liar?" etc). But it is also very characteristic of some of the Taiwanese responses I have heard. A list of faults...

1) The location of the shooting is supposedly four hours north of the actual fishing location. Therefore... the Taiwanese were illegally poaching fish in Philipine waters.

2) Even the location of the shooting is well within the Philipines' internationally recognized EEZ and only arguably within one version of Taiwan's ficticious EEZ. Ficticious because these principles are set by inter-state treaties to which the ROC is not a party.

3) Even though Taiwan's legislature may have adopted international laws as their own, the idea that all Taiwanese fishermen abide by these laws is difficult to believe given their history of being shot at by the Philipine coast guard. If Taiwan's government is not interested in enforcing their own laws to protect the interests of neighbouring states, why should those neighbouring states give a shit about Taiwan?

4) The bullet-holes are almost all over the engine room, right where the Filipinos said they fired. The confusion of "shot" for "shots" or a "discrete volley of shots" might simply be a language issue.

5) The insistence that the ramming claim is false due to the lack of impact marks might simply be a similar language issue: a ramming attempt, as opposed to a successful ramming - the coast guard vessel would surely have been faster and more agile than the fishing vessels.

This whole episode is an object lesson in how moral collectivism disables the intellect.

Anonymous said...

[b]it stems from the fact that an "inferior race" had the nerve to actually try to enforce it's own laws,[/b]

Chinese living on Taiwan view Taiwanese as an inferior race. Chinese living in New York view Americans as an inferior race. Basically, Chinese see every other race as inferior. 'Fortunately', Chinese respects rationally those ones that have big guns, a lesson learned a hundred years ago.
(I am Taiwanese, who have experienced the racial discrimination.) Even the conflict between KMT and DPP is roughly a racial struggle in disguise. You can sense that subtle Chinese superiority in Ang Lee's movies as well.

Anonymous said...

@mike flanagan may i add.

1. why is it that no one in taiwan has bothered to ask themselves why the boat was shot at in the first place? and why is taiwan so quick to absolve the fishermen of any wrong doing? they seem to have concluded the investigation in 24 hours

2. 4 hours to reach safe harbour? on a clear day you can see taiwan from the norhtern tip of the philippines! disputed waters? of course it's gong to be disputed because of taiwan's ridiculous nine -dash claim in which they claim ALL of the south china sea!

3. why is it that taiwan is repeatedly caught ( and by their own admission they have had this problem with the phils for decades) in philippine waters? - they have no more fish in their own backyard- they have been caught as far as argentina

4. taiwan cannot seem to understand the difference between attempted to ram and a successful ramming (thats why there are no dings or dents!)

Unknown said...

I really think every Taiwanese should take a good look at themselves after this whole incident is over.

Mike Fagan said...

"...this is a case of the "servant slapping the master" the taiwanese sense of indignation does not stem from the fisherman's death, it stems from the fact that an "inferior race" had the nerve to actually try to enforce it's own laws..."

That might be true. However, the ostensible concept involved is nationalism rather than racism. Whatever the case may be, you would hope most Taiwanese people understand that there are far better achievements to strive for in life than mere acquittal of racism on a technicality.

The sooner State "education" is abolished in the West, the sooner it will be abolished here. The East Asian tendency to imitate the West and the apparent fact that these cultures are still as nationalist as they were a century ago indicates that they have made no intellectual progress of their own whatsoever in the field of political ideas.

Max said...

@Mike, for years Philippines government refused to negotiate EEZ with Taiwan government. I guess you or Philippines government prefers Taiwan working with China to claim its EEZ? Be careful what you wish for! The bullet-holes are almost all over the engine room? It seems to me there are many on the cockpit as well. Justified? On ramming claim - Philippines government should show the video tape ASAP to clarify the incident.

Anonymous said...


local fishermen often submit themselves to Coast Guard inspections. It's the Taiwanese poachers that are renowned to be trying to ram Coast Guard ships and resisting board inspections

Anonymous said...

@Max, Taiwan needs to sign the UNCLOS first before it can demand EEZ negotiations. Otherwise, they should follow the internationally recognized border which is the Bashi channel.

The Philippines does not extend its EEZ up to Taiwan's side of the Bashi channel out of respect to the Taiwanese. Why can't the Taiwanese do the same. They harass Japan to get access to Japanese EEZ

Max said...

@Anon, actually, Taiwan and Japan just signed off over fishing rights in overlapping maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZs) near the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea in April.

Ben Goren said...

I would comment but I wouldn't want to 'drag you down to me level' and fill the comments with anger-based analysis. lol

Anonymous said...

Google earth of the incident:

Judgeging from this pic, the incident happened not in Philippine EEZ but in Philippine BASELINE -- in no way can Taipei claims this is "overlapping" as it is de facto and de jure Philippine territory where the Philippines has EXCLUSIVE jurisdiction

"Ludigel" said...

Well, your article reads a bit as if the "thugs" are those who got shot at. I understand where you are coming from though. President Ma will be rather happy about the incident, as it gives him the opportunity to steer Taiwan once again closer to China.
But I still do not think it makes sense to see the problem only from the Philippine side here, only because you are against Ma.
Fact remains, an unarmed Taiwan vessel got shot at in disputed waters and a person died. Too much violence on the Philippine side.

Still I do not like those hatred-preaching TV speakers in the evening "news" shows.

Anonymous said...

Similar disputes over territorial water happen between Taiwan and other nations, namely Japan. Japanese Coast Guard uses high pressure water jets against fishing boats. While there are many angles involved in the Filipino-Taiwanese relationship, the most significant point of this unfortunate event is that a Taiwanese fisherman was killed by a bullet fired by the Filipino official vessel. Whatever wrong doings that might have been subsequent to this event by the Taiwanese government do not eradicate this fact.

Anonymous said...

@Max: and the Taiwanese still had the guts to go beyond the agreement, right?

Recently, a Taiwanese boat was seized by the Japanese coast guard. In addition, Vietnam also cited a Taiwanese fishing boat in Vietnam waters and the Taiwanese are complaining of being harassed. Are they expecting that Vietnam will give a red carpet to POACHERS?

And Taiwan was very offensive before the signed agreement.

It is HIGH TIME that the Taiwanese consider that they're "fishermen" are indeed POACHERS. Or perhaps, their government are encouraging POACHING?

Max said...

@Anon, at least it's not a dispute but a legitimate rule of law.

Anonymous said...

good article on forbes came out today

quote from taiwanese official". “Then we think ‘my goodness a backward country like the Philippines dares to hurt us.’”

Anonymous said...

there was a written agreement made between taiwan and the cory aquino government in the 80's establishing a "safety corridor" for vessels to safely pass by toward the pacific,apparently the the taiwanese misinterpreted it as their territory,sickening attitude.