May 16, 2013 (TSR) – The Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, a 15-ton fishing boat from southern Taiwan, came under automatic weapons fire from a Philippines patrol vessel on May 9 in an overlapping economic zone between the two countries. A 65-year-old fisherman was killed in the incident.
In addition to Taiwan’s demands to bring those responsible to justice, the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council condemned the attack on the fishing boat as a “barbaric act” and called for a thorough investigation into the incident.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said Washington expects “a full and transparent investigation into the specifics of the incident.”
There have been several acts of piracy in the waters between Taiwan and the Philippines in recent years. In each case, Philippine law enforcement personnel have acted extrajudicially, kidnapping, injuring or even killing Taiwanese fishermen.
In 2004, the Cheng Fu Li was pelted with bullets and its captain Wang Pao-sheng was killed, having been hit several times. In 2006, the Man Chun Yi was attacked, resulting in the death of its captain Chen An-lao.
This time, the Philippine government’s response indicates that it is willing to deal with the matter in a more serious way, apparently because both China and the United States have spoken out. Taiwan, however, cannot rely on external pressure but needs to be able to cope with such incidents on its own.
We believe that the government should take certain measures to ensure the safety of our fishermen operating in waters close to Taiwan.
In the near term, the Coast Guard Administration needs to provide better protection to our fishermen at sea. Taiwan’s coast guard vessels should carry out regular routine patrols in order to deter Philippine personnel engaged in illegal activities.
Our navy warships also need to patrol the waters between Taiwan and the Philippines. At the start of the fishing season each year, the navy and the coast guard should conduct joint exercises in those waters to highlight their presence.
In the longer term, we should use every possible means to publicize the reality that has existed in this part of Asia. In this fast-developing region, illegal actions that are harmful to peace should not be tolerated or condoned.
The purpose of such efforts is not to demonize the Philippines but to remind Manila of its obligation to put all of its uniformed personnel under effective control as a modern government should do.
There is hardly an Asian country with a sea border that is exempt from disputes over territorial waters. This has led to tensions, instability and a lack of sincerity in talks about peace and cooperation.
Countries in the region should sit down and talk seriously about ways to share the maritime resources in the Western Pacific, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
In this area, scholars and think tanks from Taiwan and China can cooperate. However, the responses by some Chinese media, which have linked the shooting to the Philippines’ confrontation with China over the Scarborough Shoal and have suggested sending Chinese warships to the area, are not feasible and will not work in the long term. (Editorial abstract — May 12, 2013)