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Philippine fishing group against Taipei-Manila fishery cooperation

2013/06/17 23:24:07

A fishing port in the Philippines. (CNA file photo)

Manila, June 17 (CNA) A Philippine fishing rights group on Monday criticized the Philippine government for tilting toward Taiwan in bilateral fishery talks, which it said would undermine the interests of millions of Filipino fishermen.

The Pamalakaya warned in a statement that the fishery agreement the Philippine government wants to sign with Taiwan would put Manila in an extremely disadvantaged position.

It described a potential deal as being like handing the nation's marine wealth on a silver platter to Taiwan at the expense of the sovereignty and territorial rights of the Philippines' 100 million people.

"Taiwan wants unlimited fishing access in the Philippines and that is the real score and the Manila government seems like ready to give in to the request," the group said in the statement.

On June 14, Taiwan and the Philippines held a first preparatory meeting in Manila to lay the groundwork for more formal bilateral fishery talks in the future and eventually a fishing agreement.

The two countries reached an initial consensus, including that a similar incident like the attack of Philippine patrol boat on a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9 would not take place again.

They also agreed to not using force while enforcing maritime laws and regulations, and establishing a fishing boat notification mechanism and a system to release crewmen and their ship after they are detained.

Starting fishery talks was one of the demands Taiwan made of the Philippines after the May 9 attack, which resulted in the death of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman and triggered a diplomatic standoff.

Faced with a possible deal, the Pamalakaya said the Philippines only has a few fishing boats capable of sailing into the Taiwan Strait, while Taiwan's more sophisticated fishing ships can often enter Filipino waters to fish for tuna and other high-value catches.

If a fishery agreement were to be signed with Taiwan, it would effectively expand a Philippine-Taiwan Sea Lane Accord which was signed in the Marcos era, but then strengthened by an executive order signed by former President Corazon C. Aquino in 1991.

The statement said the accord allows Taiwanese fishing boats to navigate in South Pacific fishing grounds through Philippine waters under certain conditions.

In a bid to ease tensions triggered by the shooting incident, incumbent President Benigno Aquino, son of Corazon C. Aquino, has said openly several times that his country is willing to discuss fishery cooperation with Taiwan.

Observers said that if Pamalakaya's appeal resonates with other groups, it could hamper Taiwan-Philippine fishery cooperation talks.

(By Emerson Lim and Lilian Wu)