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‘Fishing pact only favors Taiwan’

An alliance of activist fisherfolk groups warned on Monday that the government’s fishing agreement with Taiwan would put the Philippines to an extremely disadvantage position. Pamalakaya (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organization in the Philippines), an alliance of fisherfolks in the country with over 80,000 individual members and 43 provincial chapters, said the agreement would only favor Taiwan. “It is like serving the country’s marine wealth in a silver platter to Taiwanese fishing giants at the expense of the patrimonial, sovereign and territorial rights of nearly 100 million Filipino people,” said Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France. France said that only a handful of Philippine fishing boats could explore the country’s ocean waters compared to large Taiwanese fishing fleets that regularly poach inside the country’s territorial waters. France said the proposed agreement would also expand the coverage of the existing Philippine-Taiwan Sea Lane Accord signed by former President Ferdinand Marcos and was strengthened by Executive Order 473 signed by President Aquino’s mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino, in 1991. Malacañang had announced that the two countries agreed to avoid the use of force or violence in the implementation of their respective fisheries laws and other relevant regulations. In a television interview, Manila Economic and Cultural Office chairman Amadeo Perez said that, under the new agreement, the Philippines would impose a P2.16-million ($50,000) administrative penalty if no case was filed against the Taiwanese fishermen caught fishing in the waters off Balintang Chanel. Perez said the fishing agreement between both countries was meant to prevent an incident similar to the May 9 fatal shooting of 65-year old  Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng. “This was just an initial talk and Taiwan asked for it. In principle, we agreed that force or violence will not be used in the apprehension of fishermen in our territorial boundaries and also with Taiwan,” the MECO chief said. “We will not discontinue arresting Taiwanese fishermen who will encroach into our territorial boundaries and in the same manner in their boundaries.” Perez said, however, that if the poachers used force in resisting arrest, authorities “will have no choice but to use force to impose the law.” He said the new agreement provided that Taiwan and the Philippines must notify each other of any arrests of fishermen in their territorial waters. He said the $50,000 fine only applied to poachers caught fishing and were not carrying contraband  in their fishing vessels. He said the fine would be paid to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and that all fish caught would be confiscated. In case the fishermen were caught with illegal drugs or endangered animals, they would be slapped with the appropriate charges and a judge will determine if they will be allowed to post bail. Perez said Filipino and Taiwanese authorities had set aside for issue of delineation of territorial waters. He said Philippine authorities needed to consult the technical working group, including the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority and other agencies, on how to put up “demarcation lines on which areas Taiwanese and Filipino fishermen could be allowed to fish. Taiwan leader Ma Ying-Jeou earlier said his government wanted to thresh out a fishing agreement with the Philippines in an effort to ease ties severely strained last month when Philippine Coast Guard personnel fatally shot a 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman. Ma said he wanted to see the relations between Taiwan, and the bilateral fishing pact could be patterned after the one between Taiwan and Japan. On Thursday, investigators on Thursday said they had recommended the filing of criminal charges against the Coast Guard personnel involved in the fatal shooting of the fisherman.
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