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PH, Taiwan Coast Guard ships in standoff near Batanes

Philippine and Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels engaged in a standoff near Batanes last week, an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed on Wednesday.

PCG spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the incident happened May 25 between the Taiwanese Coast Guard and operatives of the PCG-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) patrolling the Batanes area.

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Balilo said the standoff started when the PCG apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat “Min Jiang Tsai 6” 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes at 6:25 p.m.

“The Philippine ship was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard Cutter 118 appeared, blocked its path and demanded the release of Min Jiang Tsai 6,” the PCG official said.

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After a four-hour standoff, the PCG operatives released the Taiwanese fishing boat, apparently upon instructions from BFAR officers.

The standoff prompted a call for the early signing of a bilateral fisheries agreement with Taiwan “that would formalize how to resolve fishing disputes,” Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a text message.

The agreement would also define “procedures on the detention and release of any fishing vessels or fishermen, so as to prevent the occurrence of similar (standoffs) in the future,” he added.

The Philippines and Taiwan have been working on a fisheries pact after a shooting incident on May 9, 2013, resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fisherman. Results of the investigation showed that members of the PCG fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat in an effort to defend themselves. The incident, however, sparked outrage in Taiwan and strained the relations between the two countries.

A fisheries pact could revive the country’s bilateral relations with Taiwan, Jose said, adding that the Batanes standoff could have been prevented had there been an existing agreement to guide the coast guards of the two sides.

Philippine officials said earlier this year that Taiwan had already agreed to forge a Fisheries Facilitation Agreement, which will correct poaching and impose laws on fishing.

On May 7, another Taiwanese fishing boat, “Sheng Feng” was intercepted by the PCG near Yami Island, 6.5 nautical miles of Batanes, Balilo said, adding that the boat was turned over to BFAR and released on May 13 after paying a fine of $50,000.

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TAGS: Batanes, Coast Guards, Fisheries agreement, Fishing, Philippines, Standoff, Taiwan
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