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Philippines seeks to seal deal with Taiwan to end dispute
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 06 - 2015

MANILA — The Philippines hopes to sign a law enforcement and fisheries agreement with Taiwan by the second half of the year, a presidential official in Manila said on Tuesday, after a second standoff in as many weeks between their coast guards.
Friction between Taiwan and the Philippines over the rich fishing grounds in northern Batanes island has been increasing since 2013 when a Philippine coast guard ship opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat, killing a fisherman.
“We have no quarrel with Taiwan, it is not an enemy,” said Commander Armand Balilo, a coast guard spokesman, confirming the latest two-hour standoff with Taiwan on June 6.
An official from Taiwan's coast guard confirmed the incident but insisted its ship was within Taiwan's territorial waters, saying it was “fairly common” for the Philippines and Taiwan to face each other in the disputed waters.
In late May, a Taiwanese coast guard frigate blocked a small Philippine coast guard boat which arrested a Taiwanese fishing boat and demanded to release the vessel, insisting it was on its exclusive economic zone. The Philippine coast guard freed the fishing boat four hours later.
An official from the Office of the President said a proposed fishery and law enforcement agreement with Taiwan was now under consideration by the cabinet and would be reviewed by lawyers before being signed later this year.
“We want to peacefully resolve our overlapping exclusive economic zone claims to avoid further friction which may result in an accident,” Balilo said. “There are ongoing backroom talks to come to an agreement but I am not privy to these talks.”
Philippines broadcaster ABS-CBN was aboard the small fisheries boat manned by the coast guard on June 6 when it confronted the larger Taiwanese coast guard vessel about 23 miles east of Itbayat island.
“This is our territory, you do not have any rights here,” the Philippines coast guard radioed the Taiwanese ship, which responded with “this is our exclusive economic zone, we have rights to stay here, we are not leaving.”
The smaller Philippine boat stood its ground, asking the Taiwan ship to check its charts and coordinates. When the ship did not respond, about half a dozen crew assembled to sing the national anthem. Two hours later, the Taiwanese ship left the area.
Taiwan and the Philippines also have overlapping claims in the nearby South China Sea, along with China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. — Reuters

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