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June 27, 2017

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Philippines should get with the high-seas program

Taiwan and the Philippines have had a fishing rights dispute for a half century. Long before the exclusive economic zones were set in place, fishermen from Taiwan had gone over waters of the Philippine Islands in search of prized tunas. Philippine coastguardsmen love to collect fines by arresting and detaining Taiwan fishermen operating near or within the territorial waters of the Philippines and those making innocent passage to the Southern Pacific. A few of them were killed, the last one being Hung Shih-cheng, a Little Ryukyu fisherman aboard the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 tuna boat.

The killing occurred on May 9 last year on the high seas, within the overlapping exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines. Hung was shot to death by a Philippine coastguardsman aboard his Maritime Control Surveillance 2001 in Taiwan's exclusive economic zone. The Philippine Coast Guard insisted that the shooting was a reaction to the threat of being rammed by the Kuang Ta Hsing.

After the incident, Taiwan recalled its representative in the Philippines, Raymond Wang, and sent Philippine representative Antonio Basilio back to Manila.

Taiwan also imposed sanctions and conducted a two-day "safety and rescue drill" with its naval and coast guard forces near the waters where the killing occurred on the grounds that it was in violation of international law. Taiwan made four demands to resolve the incident, too, including an apology, compensation for Hung and the damages on the Kuang Ta Hsing, punishment of any and all responsible Philippine coastguardsmen and opening of negotiations for a fisheries agreement.

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