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Attacked Taiwanese fishing boat was operating legally: experts

2013/05/11 21:34:19

Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin (second left) and the Philippines' representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio (left) look at the attacked fishing boat.

Taipei, May 11 (CNA) The Taiwanese fishing boat attacked by a Philippine government vessel in the two countries' overlapping waters was operating legally in the region, Taiwanese experts said Saturday.

It is against international law for the Philippines to open fire to an unarmed vessel, said Chen Li-tung, a professor at National Taiwan Ocean University's Institute of the Law of the Sea.

Chen also urged the government to demand that the Philippines send an envoy to Taiwan to make an official apology and he called on the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office to form a panel to deal with this matter as a criminal case. The Taiwanese fishing boat is from Pingtung.

Hu Nien-tsu, director of National Sun Yat-sen University's Center for Marine Policy Studies, said that according to Article 51 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as a neighboring country to the Philippines, Taiwan's fishing boats have rights to legally operate in the Bashi Channel as well as rights to exercise their traditional fishing rights within the Philippines' archipelagic waters.

The article stipulates that an archipelagic state shall "recognize traditional fishing rights and other legitimate activities of the immediately adjacent neighboring states in certain areas falling within archipelagic waters."

Hu said that when disputes arise, it is necessary for the Philippines to reach bilateral agreements with Taiwan.

Liu Fu-kuo, a researcher at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, also said that the Philippine coast guard officials' decision to fire at the Taiwanese fishing boat is against international law and other laws related to the sea.

Meanwhile in Kaohsiung, city councilor Cheng Hsi-chu led a group of supporters to protest outside the Manila Economic and Cultural Office's Kaohsiung branch, demanding that the southeast Asian country make an official apology immediately.

Cheng and his supporters also threatened to continue protesting outside the office if the Philippines fail to apologize and make compensation for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman, who was killed in the shooting.

Mario I. Molina, the Philippine director of the Kaohsiung office, received a letter of protest from Cheng and promised that he will forward the letter to the office in Taipei.

Also on Saturday, Mak Ip Sing, a district councilor in Hong Kong and several groups of activists in Hong Kong released a statement protesting the Philippines' move to fire at the Taiwanese fishing boat.

They said in the statement that they felt anger and sorrow over the death of the fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, and demanded that the Philippine government bring the shooters to justice, make a compensation, and apologize to the victim's family as well as to Taiwan's government and society.

If the Philippine government fails to do so, the statement said, it will damage the relations between Taiwan and the Philippines and the Philippines will be condemned by all Chinese speaking people.

The fisherman was killed on Thursday after a Philippines government vessel fired shots at his boat. Taiwan has strongly protested and condemned the action and has demanded an apology, compensation and punishment of those involved.

The Philippines has agreed to a joint investigation and has expressed sympathy and regret, but has declined to apologize pending the findings of the investigation.

(By Hsieh Chia-chen, Sophia Yeh, Wang Shu-fen, Stanley Cheung and Jamie Wang)