Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad of Batanes, wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, has vowed to block any fishing agreement between the Philippines and Taiwan unless the Aquino administration will earmark funding for strict border control in the fishing waters in her province against Taiwanese poachers.
Abad was referring to the fisheries pact that Taiwan is pushing for with the Philippines when the two parties met in June. Under that agreement, the Philippines would impose a P2.16-million ($50,000) administrative penalty if no case was filed against the Taiwanese fishermen caught fishing in the waters off Balintang Chanel.
Abad said that it can’t be that simple, underscoring that fishermen in Batanes could only watch helplessly as their small bancas are no mach to the superior fishing junks and communication system of the Taiwanese, which ranges to 25 to 50.
“The government must first secure our porous Northern Border by equipping our Philippine Coast Guard [PCG] and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources [BFAR]. We need strong presence from these two agencies. They must be equipped with the later surveillance technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, communication technology, and fast crafts. Unless these are in place, I will bloc any fishing agreement with the Taiwanese in Congress. I will file a Resolution in the House,” Abad said on Monday.
Abad then disclosed the Batanes authorities already found a suitable site where the PCG and BFAR can establish a secure base of operation, including the stationing of fast crafts and communication facilities, which is secure from typhoons.
“The Taiwanese go fishing as if they own our fishing waters. It is also possible that aside from poaching, the smuggling of contraband and humans may also be taking place, as had happen in the past. A PCG-BFAR facility can provide us with credible deterrence capability and, if and when necessary, the ability to pursue, apprehend and detain poachers and other interlopers. I will make representations with the President for the PCG and BFAR to immediately design and develop this facility and secure funding for it,” Abad argued.
Also, the Batanes lawmaker is wary that the decision of the Department of Justice to file homicide charges against the PCG personnel involved in the death of a Taiwanese fishing boat captain in the Balintang incident in May may embolden Taiwanese fishermen into continuing their poaching activities up north and make the PCG reluctant to pursue them.
She stressed that even when the Balintang incident was raging, Taiwanese fishermen were relentless in their poaching activities in Batanes.
“Check with your local fishermen and local government officials. They will tell you that Taiwanese poachers were not only fishing in our exclusive economic zone. They would even boldly intrude into our municipal waters. The government should tighten border patrol in the rich Batanes-Babuyan fishing areas up north, apprehend and prosecute Taiwanese poachers.
“Unless we adopt certain measures, the Balintang incident will not be the last one. Any fishing agreement with Taiwan, as had happen in the past, will be meaningless to our local fishermen and may just legitimize poaching if we do not have the capability to monitor and compel compliance with the conditions,” Abad added.