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Taiwan president happy about warming relations with PH

Tsai Ing-wen

In this Jan. 16, 2016, file photo, Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen waves as she declares victory in the presidential election in Taipei, Taiwan. On Wednesday, Feb. 17, after reports surfaced that China had positioned anti-aircraft missiles on the disputed Paracel Island group, Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai issued a call for calm by saying “We urge every party to uphold peace in settling the South China Sea dispute and use self-restraint,” at a legislative function. (File photo from AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan’s relationship with the Philippines had been warming up over the past year with the successful resolution of the border patrol issue between the two countries. But she expressed regret that Taiwan was excluded in the discussions on the South China Sea row.

Tsai reiterated her position that Taiwan would have to take part in all discussions on the South China Sea because of its claims on one of the largest islands in the contested territory.

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She said Taiwan was generally happy about how her country and the Philippines resolved the issue involving Taiwanese fishermen along its common border but added the South China Sea issue can also be better worked out together.

“Despite the fact that the quality of communications between Taiwan and the Philippines has improved over the past year, we would need to continue to strengthen the quality of that communication on the South China sea issue,” Tsai said in a rare audience with journalists from Southeast Asia and India on Friday.

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“The South China Sea issue, the fishery, we can better manage the situation jointly,” she said.

She was referring to the sea row that developed along the common border, involving Taiwanese fishermen on Philippine territory and the actions taken by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Tsai had over an hour’s meeting with journalists to discuss Taiwan’s new southbound policy, in which Taiwan aims to increase market share and open up more trade and people-to-people relations with 18 countries, including those in Southeast Asia like the Philippines, along with India, New Zealand and Australia.

Under the new policy, Taiwan wants to increase cooperation with neighboring countries in terms of sharing of resources, talents and markets.

Taiwan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Leo Chen-jan Lee said Taiwan and the Philippines successfully reached an agreement last year that “under no circumstances can force be used in dealing with the Taiwanese fishermen, that the Philippine government only had to inform the Taiwanese side as soon as the thing happens, and that erring fishermen should be accorded due process.”

He also said Taiwan was optimistic that an agreement could be reached about the overlapping exclusive economic zone of the two countries under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We are working out an agreement over our overlapping EEZ,” he said, “With the administration of the new President Duterte, we hope that agreement can be reached.”

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Tsai said Taiwan has been pushing for the peaceful resolution of the dispute in the South China Sea but the country rejected the arbitral ruling issued by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which favored the EEZ claim of the Philippines, saying the international body has left Taiwan out of the discussion.

“We are not in the position to accept the judgment, when we are not part of proceedings and secondly and they don’t respect our existence as a country,” Tsai said. /atm

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TAGS: Maritime Dispute, PH-Taiwan relations, Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, Tsai Ing-wen
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