Taiwan-Philippines dispute over fisherman’s death

1 June 2013

By Kamer  Kasim

The dispute between Taiwan and Philippines began with one Taiwanese fisherman’s death due to the Philippines coast guard vessel’s attacked to the Taiwanese fishing boat. Attacked was occurred in the disputed Exclusive Economic Zone between Taiwan and Philippines. Taiwanese government asked formal apology from the government of Philippine, compensation for the fisherman Hong Shi-cheng’s family, cooperative investigation and punishment of the perpetrators, launching of talks on a bilateral fishery arrangement in order to prevent similar incidents to be repeated in the future. The demands of the Taiwanese government are based on the fact that Philippines coast guard vessel is more than seven times the weight of the Taiwanese fishing boat and 45 bullet entry points detected in Taiwanese boat and Philippines coast guard vessel’s attack occurred in disputed Exclusive Economic Zone violated UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and contravenes the principle of proportionality. 

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Article 73 stated that 1. “The coastal State may, in the exercise of its sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage the living resources in the exclusive economic zone, take such measures, including boarding, inspection, arrest and judicial proceedings, as may be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by it in conformity with this Convention.”  2.“Arrested vessels and their crews shall be promptly released upon the posting of reasonable bond or other security.” 3.“Coastal State penalties for violations of fisheries laws and regulations in the exclusive economic zone may not include imprisonment, in the absence of agreements to the contrary by the States concerned, or any other form of corporal punishment.” 4.“In cases of arrest or detention of foreign vessels the coastal State shall promptly notify the flag State, through appropriate channels, of the action taken and of any penalties subsequently imposed.”

Photo: Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was killed at sea aboard the vessel “Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28″ seen here —  by Philippine coast guard sailors  in disputed waters, Thursday, May 9, 2013.  (Liuqiu Fishermen’s Assn. / EPA / May 10, 2013)

As it is seen in Article 73 of the Convention shooting and killing are not allowed under any circumstances. Thus Taiwanese government announced some measures if its demands are not being met. The measures are suspension of high level exchanges between Taiwan and Philippines, suspension of economic exchanges, fishery cooperation, science and technology cooperation and bilateral aviation negotiations, remove the Philippines Taiwan’s visa-waiver program.
Although the government of Philippine has apologized, the demands of Taiwan have not yet been fulfilled. The final solution of that type of dispute requires fishing pact between the two countries. Taiwan-Japan fishing pact may provide an example for the dispute between Taiwan and Philippines. Taiwanese government presented voyage data recorder belongs to the attacked fishing boat, which shows that fishing boat had not entered the Philippines’ territorial waters. The most beneficial thing for the both sides is to sign a fishing pact and prevent repetition of the similar incidents to be happen. 87,000 Philippines worker are working in Taiwan and they work mostly in IT sector. If they had to leave after their contracts end, this would be unfortunate for both Taiwan and Philippine.  
The US was very uncomfortable due to the dispute between Taiwan and Philippine, since both countries had very close relations and defense cooperation with the US. Therefore the US wants the dispute to be resolved before further deteriorate the relations between Taiwan and Philippine. The position of the US in the dispute between Taiwan and Philippines is very similar with its stand towards the dispute between Turkey and Israel after the Mavi Marmara incident in which Israeli soldiers attacked the vessel in international waters and killed Turkish citizens. Since both Turkey and Israel ally of the US, the US administration wanted Israel to apologize and accept to pay compensation for the normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. The US had the same effort regarding the dispute between Taiwan and Philippines.

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