Authorities seize Taiwanese fishing vessel off Batanes
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday said a Taiwanese vessel was seized off Itbayat, Batanes and a fisherman detained pending investigation, reported Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
The report said the Batanes Provincial Police and sea patrol volunteers caught the fishing vessel on Wednesday night near a Batanes island within the country’s 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said the 54-year old fisherman named Tsai Po did not have pertinent documents and could not explain why he was within Philippine territory.
Tsai Po was detained at the Batanes Provincial Police Office while his vessel was brought to Basco Sea Port. He was detained on Tuesday while diving for lobsters off the coast in the Philippines’ Batanes group of islands near the maritime border with Taiwan, provincial police officer Victor de Sagon told AFP.
“They have been doing this for a long time. This is rampant poaching,” said de Sagon, adding that Tsai was among a group of suspects who were illegally fishing just off Siayan Island.
He is to be charged with poaching, which is punishable by a US$100,000 fine, confiscation of his catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel, the officer added.
De Sagon rejected reports in the Taiwanese press that the detained suspect had been treated roughly.
“We are not violating his rights. He is being fed well, he underwent a medical check-up, and he is in regular contact with his wife and the (de facto) Taiwanese embassy in Manila,” de Sagon said.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency quoted the fisherman’s wife Shih Li-hua as saying he had been handcuffed and asked to kneel on the floor for four hours.
The arrest followed a diplomatic spat triggered by the shooting death of a 65-year-old crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9 by a Filipino coastguard patrol.
Taipei banned the hiring of new Filipino workers on the island, where some 87,000 Filipinos are employed according to official figures.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou also rejected an initial official apology and demanded criminal charges against the coastguards for an act that he described as “cold-blooded murder”.
The two countries began repairing the rift after Filipino authorities in August recommended homicide charges against the coastguards following pressure from Taiwan, which is not diplomatically recognized by Manila.
Taiwan has since lifted the hiring ban on Filipino workers.
The shooting occurred in waters near the Batanes group of islands.
Taiwan also lays claim to the waters. –With a report from Agence France-Presse
Originally posted at 9:05 a.m.