With movement in Manila, fishery talks may finally be on the horizon


TAIPEI — Taiwan and the Philippines could start fishery talks soon in light of Manila’s release of a long-awaited investigative report over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine coast guard personnel in May, the head of Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency said yesterday.

The two countries will step up efforts to begin fishery talks to ensure the safety of fishermen operating in the overlapping economic waters of the two countries.

“We are preparing (for the fishery talks),” agency head James Sha said, noting that a preparatory meeting in June has already helped Taiwan and the Philippines find some common ground.

Both sides have agreed on a mechanism based on the principle of no use of force during law enforcement, notification of each other’s side in the event of fishing boat incidents and the immediate release of detained fishermen and boats, Sha explained.

The next round of discussion will focus on working out concrete measures to implement this, he added.

In its report, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation has recommended homicide charges against eight Filipino coast guard officers. If convicted, they could face sentences of between 12 and 20 years in prison.

The incident occurred May 9 when Hung Shih-cheng, a fisherman aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No.28, was killed by gunfire from a Philippine coast guard vessel in an area where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap.

Taiwan’s demands to the Philippines after the fatal shooting included a formal apology, compensation for the victim’s family, an investigation, punishment for the officers responsible and a speedy start to formal fishery talks.