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Taipei-Manila fishery talks advance: MOFA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan and the Philippines concluded the latest round of fishery talks earlier this week during which both sides agreed to cooperate on marine patrol in overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs), a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said yesterday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) told The China Post yesterday that representatives of both sides have just finished a new round of bilateral talks. She did not, however, disclose where or when the meeting was held.

“Major progress was made during the talks when both sides agreed to work closely on different issues regarding marine patrol in overlapping waters,” Kao said.

However, during the meeting, the Philippines side expressed its concern and asked Taiwanese authorities to have better control of local fishing vessels instead of letting them engage in fishery activities in Philippine waters, Kao said.

In response, Taiwan officials who participated the meeting said they would pass on Manila's concern to Taipei's fisheries administrators.

Both sides will continue to engage in talks in the future in the hope of signing an official agreement on marine patrol cooperation in the event of future fishing incidents in overlapping EEZs, she said.

Taiwan originally hoped to seal the deal in the just-concluded talks this week before the upcoming fishing season that begins later this month to better protect Taiwanese fishermen's rights to operate in overlapping fishing grounds.

The signing of the agreement will help prevent a recurrence of incidents such as the shooting death of 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) by Philippine Coast Guard personnel on May 9, 2013, Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) told local media last month.

Mechanism Already in Place

A diplomatic source who prefers to stay anonymous told The China Post yesterday that there is little harm in either side signing the agreement at this time.

Many of the mechanisms to prevent similar tragedies like Hung's from happening again are already in place, including the establishment of a hotline to facilitate two-way communication should fishery disputes occur within overlapping EEZs in the South China Sea.

Both sides also agreed to disavow the use of force in patrols in the event of future fishing incidents. A mechanism for the prompt release of detained fishing vessels and their crews following arrests has also been established, the source said.

But Taiwan still hopes to sign an official agreement to put these already in-place agreements on paper, the source said.

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