Taiwanese diving for lobsters off Batanes arrested

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05:08 AM September 6th, 2013

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September 6th, 2013 05:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines—A Taiwanese fisherman has been arrested for poaching in Philippine waters, police said on Thursday as Manila and Taipei seek to mend fences after the shooting death of another Taiwanese fisherman in May.

Tsai Po, 54, 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 Agence France-Presse.

“They have been doing this for a long time. This is rampant poaching,” De Sagon said, adding that Tsai was among a group of suspects who were illegally fishing just off Siayan Island.

Tsai is to be charged with poaching, which is punishable by a $100,000 fine, confiscation of his catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel, De Sagon said.

De Sagon rejected reports in the Taiwanese press that the detained suspect had been treated roughly.

Rights respected

“We are not violating his rights. He is being fed well, he underwent a medical checkup and he is in regular contact with his wife and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) 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 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-chen on May 9 by a Philippine Coast Guard 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 coast guards for an act that he described as “cold-blooded murder.”

Repairing rift

The two countries began repairing the rift after Filipino authorities in August recommended homicide charges against the coast guards following pressure from Taiwan, which is not diplomatically recognized by the Philippines.

Taiwan has since lifted the hiring ban on Filipino workers.

The shooting occurred in waters near the Batanes group of islands.

The economic exclusion zones of Taiwan and the Philippines overlap in those waters.

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