Waters off the coast of Batanes are still part of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to a ranking Philippine fisheries official.
Asis Perez, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), on Wednesday said there is an overlap between the country’s EEZ and that of Taiwan and such technicality caused a standoff between Coast Guard patrols of the neighbors last June 6.
In an interview with GMA News, Perez explained that the waters within a 200-mile radius from the tip of Itbayat in Batanes are technically within the country’s EEZ but that they also cover waters within mainland Taiwan.
Resolving the overlapping claims, however, could not be easily done as the Philippines is barred from directly dealing with Taiwan because of its One-China policy. China considers Taiwan as a renegade province.
Manila and Taipei officials are now reviewing a draft fisheries agreement, which would facilitate enforcement of fisheries restrictions in waters off Batanes, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
The draft agreement was prepared by trade representatives of both sides, which have no formal diplomatic relations.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the purpose of this agreement “is to provide guidelines for law enforcement officials on both sides to address the incidents at sea.”
The proposed agreement stemmed from the May 9, 2013 stand-off between a Taiwanese fishing boat and a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol at the Balintang Channel off the waters of Batanes where a Taiwanese fisherman was fatally shot.
The incident sparked outrage in Taipei and affected official ties with Manila.
The agreement was one of the measures proposed to address issues in Taiwan’s and the Philippines’ overlapping EEZs.
Jose clarified that the fisheries agreement will not touch on maritime boundaries and demarcation in waters shared by Manila and Taipei.
The fisheries agreement, which the Philippines is allowed to sign as long as it is not a government-to-government pact, will set “procedures for arrest of fishermen, detention, how to handle cases like these.”
“No maritime boundary delimitation here, only how to manage illegal fishing,” Jose said, adding that they are treating the incident as purely a fisheries issue, and is not hinged on overlapping territorial and maritime claims.