PH confirms standoff with Taiwan off Batanes
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Wednesday, June 3, confirmed a recent standoff between Philippine and Taiwanese coast guard vessels off Batanes, a group of islands in northern Philippines, as the two countries seal a landmark fisheries deal.
"The incident highlights the need for an early conclusion of the agreement that would formalize how to resolve fishing disputes, including procedures on the detention and release of any fishing vessels or fishermen," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement.
He said this fisheries agreement will also "prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future."
He also clarified that the standoff didn't take place in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), waters also contested by the Philippines and Taiwan. (READ: Taiwan hits China fishing law, dismisses PH claim)
It happened, however, near the site of a shooting incident in May 2013 that involved the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) left a Taiwanese fisherman dead. (READ: SC transfers Balintang shooting case to Manila court)
Jose released this statement after the PCG confirmed the standoff between their personnel and their Taiwanese counterparts.
The standoff happened on May 25, and lasted for 4 hours.
In a statement, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said it started after PCG personnel apprehended Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6, at around 6:25 pm local time on May 25.
Fisheries deal under way
The PCG "was towing the fishing boat" when a Taiwanese coast guard cutter "appeared and blocked" the vessel of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The Taiwanese coast guard reported "asked for the release of the fishing boat."
PCG operatives released the Taiwanese fishing boat as instructed by BFAR officers.
The standoff came as the Philippines and Taiwan reportedly plan to "start follow-up discussion" on a key fisheries agreement next week, the Taipei Times reported.
The deal covers "cooperative law enforcement" in the two countries' overlapping waters, a Taiwanese foreign ministry official said, as quoted by the Taipei Times.
The standoff in Batanes is the latest heated incident at sea between the Philippines and Taiwan.
In May 2013, a shooting incident in Balintang Channel in Batanes, which involved the PCG, left a Taiwanese fisherman dead. Eight PCG officers face a homicide case because of the Balintang incident.
The Balintang incident strained relations between the Philippines and Taiwan, and left up to 16,000 Filipinos temporarily jobless in 2013. (READ: Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics)
The backlash of the Balintang incident emboldened Taiwanese fishermen to enter Philippine waters, observers said in 2013. – Rappler.com