Taiwan-Philippines marine patrol pact a 'milestone': Philippines envoy

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A marine patrol co-operation agreement signed between Taiwan and the Philippines earlier this month is a "milestone" in bilateral relations that will be beneficial to both sides, a Philippines envoy said yesterday in Taipei.

Speaking during a ceremony to celebrate the signing of the deal, Amadeo R. Perez, Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) noted that the pact will establish procedures to follow to prevent future fishing incidents in overlapping waters between both sides.

"With this framework I hope fishing incidents will be minimized in the future and we can turn the waters into a mutually beneficial opportunity for both of our peoples," Perez said.

The agreement will provide the needed stability and be a stepping stone for future joint conservation and management of marine resources for Taiwan and the Philippines, he added.

MECO represents the Philippines' interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

In his remarks at the ceremony held at the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister David Lin praised the pact as an "exceptional achievement" that has turned a crisis into an opportunity for further co-operation.

A Technical Working Group (TWG), joined by representatives of both sides, will continue work to prevent future fishery incidents from happening, the minister added.

The agreement, officially named the "Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters," was signed in Taipei on Nov. 5.

The agreement is meant to formalize the existing mechanisms that already exist in practice to better protect the rights of Taiwanese fishermen in overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the South China Sea, according to the ministry.

The agreement includes three important points of consensus that have already been implemented: avoiding the use of violence or unnecessary force, the establishment of an emergency notification system and the establishment of a prompt release mechanism.

The pact, however, did not touch on the issue regarding the two countries' differences in the scope of law enforcement.

Though international law defines national territory as being 12-nautical miles from a coastline, the Philippines enforces a 24-nautical-mile zone.

Lin previously said that both sides will continue to discuss the issue and hope to reach a consensus on the scope in the next round of TWG meetings slated to be held next January or February in Manila.

Asked to comment on the issue, Perez told The China Post that he hopes the issue can be solved once and for all at the next TWG meeting.

"We are hoping for the best," he said adding that solving the issue will be good for both sides.