PH, Taiwan seen to start talks on fishery agreement by JuneBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines-Taiwan technical working group (TWG) may meet by the middle of the year on a possible fishery agreement, when officials hope that the recent issue over a Taiwanese fisherman would have cooled.
“The meeting may be held, possibly, by June but perhaps it would be better if we do it in July,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala told reporters at the sidelines of the FishR (municipal fisherfolk registration) program in Pasay City.
Asked whether the Philippines would be open to a mutual fishing scheme, Alcala said the topic would likely crop up during talks but there was no assurance on the outcome.
The TWG is composed of representatives from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and their counterparts in Taiwan, BFAR director Asis Perez said in an interview.
As various nationalities are reported to be fishing illegally in Philippine waters, demonstrating the richness of Philippine marine resources, various civic and environmental groups urged the government to protect Philippine waters and ensure that the country would not be disadvantaged in trade and other agreements involving fishery. Business groups, meanwhile, have called on the government to “balance” political with economic concerns.
“Admittedly, our fish stocks are richer since we are in the Coral Triangle but Taiwan also has fish and stocks depending on the migration pattern of various species. I trust the TWG will study all proposals carefully,” Alcala said.
Fishery employs more than 1.6 million fisher folk. About 41 percent of fisher folk are considered poor, according to government data.
The Coral Triangle is the 6-million-km2 global center of marine biodiversity in the seas spanning the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.