Jun 182013

By , Gil C. Cabacungan

MANILA, Philippines—As Manila and Taipei prepared for fishery talks next month in a bid to ease tensions, the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday issued a reminder of Taiwan’s political status, saying governments should defer to Beijing’s “one-China policy.”

“The Chinese government has no objection to the nongovernmental economic and cultural contacts between Taiwan and foreign countries that have diplomatic relations with China, but we oppose foreign countries and Taiwan to have official exchanges or sign agreements with sovereign and official implications,” said the Chinese Embassy spokesperson, Zhang Hua.

“We have always required and hoped that the countries that have established diplomatic relations with China would abide by their commitments to adhere to the one-China policy,” Zhang said in a statement to the Inquirer.

The embassy official in Manila made the statement when asked to comment on the start of Manila and Taipei’s fishery talks, a sign of easing tensions sparked by the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coast guards in overlapping waters off Batanes on May 9.

Officials of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (Teco), the agencies that take care of Philippine-Taiwan relations, are to hold talks next month aimed at preventing the use of force in resolving fishery issues in overlapping borders.

The Meco earlier said the negotiations would include crafting a protocol in responding to poaching incidents within overlapping waters off the northernmost tip of the Philippines.

The Philippines abides by the one-China policy and handles its ties with Taiwan through Meco under the Office of the President instead of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Beijing consultations

Senior Filipino and Chinese diplomats met in Beijing last week for the 19th Philippines-China Foreign Ministry Consultations.

During the meeting, officials led by Foreign Undersecretary Evan Garcia and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin vowed to “strengthen cooperation trade and other economic areas, defense and security, sociocultural and people-to-people exchanges, and cooperative endeavors,” the DFA said Tuesday.

The officials also touched on the territorial dispute between the two countries in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), with both sides reiterating their positions.

The Philippines has been advocating a multilateral approach to the dispute, which also involves Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. China has been pushing for a bilateral track, asserting its “indisputable sovereignty” over the resource-rich islands in the region.

The Philippines has a pending arbitration bid against China in the United Nations, a legal action that seeks to nullify Beijing’s nine-dash line claim, clarify maritime boundaries of both countries and halt Chinese incursions into the country’s established exclusive economic zone.

Local gov’t pact

China has rejected the proceedings but the arbitration will proceed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon on Tuesday said a fishery pact being worked out by the Philippines and Taiwan would be the first major step in resolving the country’s territorial disputes with its neighbors.

In a phone interview, Biazon said that by drawing the dividing line in sharing waters with Taiwan, the Philippines would be able to “firmly mark its territory with another country.”

Considering Taiwan’s special status and the country’s one-China policy, Biazon said the territorial marking could be done through the respective local governments of the Philippines and Taiwan.

Biazon said the water boundary pact could be signed between Batanes province and Oluanpi town in Pintung county, Taiwan’s southernmost local government.

“This pact could serve as a blueprint for resolving bilaterally the Philippines’ disputes with other countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam,” Biazon said.

He said the disputed waters close to the Philippines offered the most bountiful fishing grounds.

“This explains why there are more incursions in our waters than theirs. We support this bilateral effort to resolve this issue,” he said.

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Tags: China , Diplomacy , Fishery Talks , foreign relations , One China policy , Philippines , Taiwan

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