Taiwan denies standoff at sea off Batanes
Taiwan denied reports of a standoff between its coast guard and that of the Philippines, saying the apprehension of a Taiwanese vessel by the Philippine side occurred in disputed waters and was settled by the two sides amicably.
“The incident happened in the disputed waters of the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) [of] Taiwan and the Philippines, not inside the Philippine territorial waters,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) said in a statement.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo was reported to have said the May 25 incident occurred when the Taiwanese fishing boat was apprehended 12 nautical miles northeast of Batanes.
Taiwan said the incident occurred 21.6 nautical miles from Batanes.
Teco said that, according to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the boat was apprehended in an area where it was lawful for Taiwanese vessels to fish.
“It is not in conformity with the international law for the Philippine agencies to arrest or detain the fishing vessels in the EEZs. Therefore, the Taiwanese Coast Guard is entitled to exercise its rights and … protect Taiwanese fishing vessels,” Teco said.
Results of an investigation by the Taiwanese authorities and a video footage showed that the coast guard officers of the two sides were “friendly and amicable with one another,” Teco said.
“No Taiwanese personnel ever threatened to shoot the Filipinos,” Teco said. “Actually, they greeted each other in a friendly atmosphere. The allegation was simply attributable to mutual language barriers and miscommunication.”
Taiwan, through Teco, supported the Department of Foreign Affairs’ position that the incident highlighted the need for a bilateral fisheries agreement between Taiwan and the Philippines.
The Philippine and Taiwanese governments have been working on an agreement since a 2013 shooting incident which resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fisherman.
Results of the investigation showed members the Philippine Coast Guard fired at a Taiwanese fishing vessel to defend themselves. The incident sparked outrage in Taiwan.
“Teco appeals to the Philippine government to take concrete actions to expedite the conclusion of [an] agreement, restrain from apprehending Taiwanese fishing vessels in the disputed waters of the overlapping EEZs … [and] work together with Taiwan to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents,” Teco said.
Taiwan authorities said a fisheries agreement would provide a mechanism through which both sides can discuss disputes “in a peaceful manner.”
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