Thursday, May 23, 2013

Necessity and Feasibility: Relations with the Philippines

Necessity and Feasibility:
Relations with the Philippines
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 24, 2013

Summary: Have people on Taiwan had any dreams while hung over? We do not know. But we do know we cannot depend upon the goodwill of others to protect our fishing rights, We must depend upon our own military strength. Otherwise, Taipei-Manila Dispute Resolution will remain a nightmare.

Full Text below:

After many days of emotional protests against the Philippines, it is finally the morning after. People are gradually emerging from their intoxication. They must now face reality. Our government, along with the Philippines government, must begin an investigation and agree on compensation. We imbibed high proof liquor. Given an arrogant and capricious Philippines, the Ma administration's headaches will persist.

In dealing with the Taipei-Manila dispute, President Ma has repeatedly demanded a formal apology, damages, a thorough investigation of the facts with punishment for the murderers. and a restart of Taipei-Manila fishing rights negotiations. These are four bottom line conditions that must be met in the Kuang Ta Hsing 28 murder case. These four demands have never changed.

But the Philippines is not Japan. From a practical perspective, getting the Philippines government to make concessions, and honor these four principles above the "one China principle," is not going to be easy. The Philippines government has repeatedly played games. It has put different government agencies in charge. It has used "public contributions" to downgrade the status of the damages. This is all too clear. In particular, Taipei and Manila define "fact-finding" very differently. The material evidence (the firearm used, the fishing vessel attacked) and witness testimony (the shooter) are geographically separated. Some are on Taiwan. Some are in the Philippines. The Philippines have already declared their unwillingness to take part in a joint investigation on Taiwan. Waiting for the two sides' legal systems to interact, and for the two sides' investigative reports to be released, is certain to waste time. There is no guarantee we will not repeat the experience of three years ago, when a Hong Kong tour group was kidnapped. In the end, nothing was resolved, and the case was left hanging.

Under pressure from international opinion, the Philippine government's attitude softened. But this does not mean the Philippines has changed its policy. Philippines President Aquino said it is willing to negotiate fisheries agreements with Taipei and other neighboring governments. But on Taiwan, when the Philippines participated in criminal investigations, whenever the Philippine government came across sensitive material evidence, they adopted an uncooperative and evasive stance. For example, our government identified eight articles of evidence to be analyzed. The Philippine government only agreed to two of them. It agreed to examine the fishing vessel and perform ballistic tests on the firearm that fired the fatal rounds. The Philippines resorted to passive resistance. This means the diplomatic dispute will not end. Fishing rights negotiations between the two governments will remain elusive.

The government may be willing to wait. But the public is not. The murder investigation and fishing rights negotiations will remain stalled for the foreseeable future. President Ma's prestige is sure to tumble. Therefore, we should keep a close eye on the government, to see whether it follows up. We must evaluate its performance based on both necessity and feasibility,

President Ma issued four demands. Our government is looking forward the most to officially restarting fisheries negotiations with the Philippines. It wants to delineate the boundary between the two sides' overlapping economic zones. This would provide long-term stability for our fishermen operating in the Bashi Channel. This is a matter of absolute necessity. Secondly, it demanded a formal apology, damages and prosecution of the criminals involved in the homicide case. This does not conflict with Taipei-Manila fisheries negotiations. Therefore, our government can adopt a twin-pronged fact-finding and fishing rights negotiations approach. It can use investigating the facts as a basis for strengthening our bargaining position on fishing rights. This is a matter of feasibility.

When establishing what is a necessity and what is feasibile, can the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement adopted just months ago serve as a model for Taipei-Manila fisheries talks?

The Japanese are adept at manipulating "one China, one Taiwan." Leave that issue aside for the moment. The Philippines adhere to the "one China principle." Leave that difference aside for the moment alsowell. Taipei was able to sign a fisheries agreement with Tokyo, mainly because Taipei and Beijing launched a coordinated attack on the Diaoyutai Islands issue. The United States' passivity and non-intervention contributed as well. These two external factors resulted in a qualitative change. This qualitative change is sure to affect Taipei-Manila fisheries talks.

Firstly, coordination between Taipei and Beijing appeared to have weakened. Obama was re-elected. US rebalancing in Asia is gradually increasing in intensity. This is sure to make Beijing feel beseiged along its borders. Myanmar President Thein Sein visited the United States. North Korea arbitrarily detained Mainland fishing vessels. This forced Beijing to busy itself shoring up its foundations, and concentrate on protecting Diaoyutai. This left it unable to take care of the situation in the South China Sea. Xi Jinping visited the U.S. on June 7. Beijing would never have provoked a South China Sea dispute just before that. An incident would have undermined the atmosphere necesary for successful negotiations with the US. This is the main reason Beijing paid only lip service to helping Taipei in its conflict with Manila.

Secondly, U.S. intervention is expanding. The Diaoyutai Islands dispute is heating up. Beijing will then be able to use the Diaoyutai Islands as leverage to breakthrough the US's Western Pacific island containment chain. The United States has lost the initiative in the East China Sea. It will gradually find itself defending the South China Sea full force. The Philippines is the US's most important pawn in the South China Sea. Therefore at this stage the Taipei-Manila dispute, the U.S. will be paying particular attention to any signs of cross-Strait coordination. It will do its utmost to avoid giving Beijing a justification to use military force in the South China Sea. This is the main reason Taipei has been so cautious about using military deterrence against the Philippines.

Have people on Taiwan had any dreams while hung over? We do not know. But we do know we cannot depend upon the goodwill of others to protect our fishing rights, We must depend upon our own military strength. Otherwise, Taipei-Manila Dispute Resolution will remain a nightmare.

2013.05.24 04:16 am












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