President inspects military drill aimed at protecting fishermen

President inspects military drill aimed at protecting fishermen Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said Saturday that the government will protect Taiwanese fishermen and ensure their fishing rights, but will not condone any illegal behavior, after the military held a drill with the Coast Guard aimed at protecting the country's fishermen. The Navy and the Coast Guard will continue to work jointly to protect the fishermen to ensure their safety while operating at sea, the president said. In the meantime, he urged fishermen to abide by international law and related fishery regulations. Ma made the remarks during a news conference after inspecting the drill held in waters off Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. The government will protect fishermen, but will never condone any illegal behavior, he said. The Navy dispatched one Chengkung-class frigate, one Lafayette-class frigate, one Chingchiang warship and four Kuang Hua VI fast-attack missile boats, while the Coast Guard sent four vessels to participate. The Air Force also deployed one P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and one EC225 rescue helicopter to take part in the drill. Saturday's drill included simulated scenarios of a Taiwanese fishing boat being chased by an unknown vessel, a standoff between a Coast Guard vessel and another unknown, armed boat and maritime emergency care. It was held just two days after Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the signing of a fisheries agreement between Taiwan and the Philippines to address fishing disputes in their overlapping economic waters. The president said he was pleased that the agreement had been signed. He said the agreement is in line with his South China Sea Peace Initiative, which calls on all parties concerned to shelve differences and jointly explore resources. It will help reduce the possibility of disputes, he added. The Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters, concluded Nov. 5, contains seven articles and includes three important points of consensus that have already been implemented -- avoiding the use of violence or unnecessary force, establishing an emergency notification system, and setting up a prompt release mechanism. Aimed at seeking peaceful solutions to fishery disputes, the agreement, nevertheless, does not touch on the contiguous zone issue. The contiguous zone is a further 12 nautical miles beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial waters, according to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Taiwan and the Philippines have been negotiating the fisheries pact since late 2013 as part of an effort to improve relations after Philippine Coast Guard officers shot up a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9, 2013, killing a Taiwanese fisherman, in an overlapping exclusive economic zone. The president said the contiguous issue will be broached during future meetings of the bilateral technical working groups under the new agreement. Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said that such drills can serve as a backup for the agreement. Many fishing boats will operate in the two countries' overlapping exclusive economic zones during the fishing season from April to July, Huang added. The Fisheries Agency is grateful for the efforts of the Navy and the Coast Guard to protect local fishermen, he said. Yang Chao-ching (楊朝卿), a Coast Guard official, said the Navy has been a great support in carrying out missions to protect Taiwan's fishing rights, noting an increase in the cases of Vietnamese fishing boats trespassing in Taiwan's economic waters recently. A program to bolster the Coast Guard vessels' armaments has also helped boost its capabilities to protect Taiwanese fishermen, Yang added. The Coast Guard will be on the frontline of protecting Taiwan's fishing rights and the Navy will support its work, said naval officer Capt. Liu Shu-ling (劉書麟). (Courtesy of CNA)