Philippines arrests Taiwanese fisherman

Posted at 09/05/13 2:42 PM

MANILA - A Taiwanese man has been arrested for illegal fishing in the Philippines, police said Thursday as the two neighbours seek to mend fences after the shooting death of another Taiwanese fisherman in May.

Tsai Po, 54, was detained on Tuesday while diving for lobsters off the coast in the Philippines' Batan group of islands near the maritime border with Taiwan, provincial police officer Victor de Sagon told AFP.

"They have been doing this for a long time. This is rampant poaching," said de Sagon, adding that Tsai was among a group of suspects who were illegally fishing just off Siayan island.

He is to be charged with poaching, which is punishable by a US$100,000 fine, confiscation of his catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel, the officer added.

De Sagon rejected reports in the Taiwanese press that the detained suspect had been treated roughly.

"We are not violating his rights. He is being fed well, he underwent a medical check-up, and he is in regular contact with his wife and the (de facto) Taiwanese embassy in Manila," de Sagon said.

Taiwan's Central News Agency quoted the fisherman's wife Shih Li-hua as saying he had been handcuffed and asked to kneel on the floor for four hours.

The arrest followed a diplomatic spat triggered by the shooting death of a 65-year-old crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9 by a Filipino coastguard patrol.

Taipei banned the hiring of new Filipino workers on the island, where some 87,000 Filipinos are employed according to official figures.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou also rejected an initial official apology and demanded criminal charges against the coastguards for an act that he described as "cold-blooded murder".

The two countries began repairing the rift after Filipino authorities in August recommended homicide charges against the coastguards following pressure from Taiwan, which is not diplomatically recognised by Manila.

Taiwan has since lifted the hiring ban on Filipino workers.

The shooting occurred in waters near the Batan group of islands.

Taiwan also lays claim to the waters.

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