My reply to that response-letter sent by Mr. Pong Chang is this: Had the skipper of Guang Da Hsin No. 28 stopped and explained things to the approaching Philippine Cost Guard, MSC 3001, maybe that unfortunate incident could have been avoided. I am sure our Coast Guard captain and his personnel are civilized enough not hastily fire their guns unless the crew of Guang Da Hsin No. 28 showed signs of hostility or violent resistance, which they actually did. Maybe PCG MSC 3001 wanted to ask questions why their vessel was within our territorial waters, and perhaps demanded an inspection of their cargo.
The trouble is that the Taiwanese fishing vessel did not stop. It did not bother to explain or insist the men were fishing outside our territorial waters, and therefore the action taken by MSC 3001 was interference into their fishing operations. Thus, if their claim was correct, a simple clarificatory explanation would even help to accurately pinpoint their location.
Alas, instead of standing firm on their ground, the skipper of Guang Da Hsin No. 28 tried to ram the MSC 3001 and made a desperate bid to escape. It was a frantic race to reach the high seas or their territorial waters’ reach. It is for this why the burden is now on the Taiwanese skipper and its crew to prove they did not violate our territorial waters.
That incident is no different from a policeman about to approach a suspicious looking person loitering in an area where he is not supposed to be in. But instead of stopping to answer questions, he pushed the policeman and tried to make a dash in a bid to escape, thinking he was caught in the act of committing the crime.
Yes, shooting a suspect is not reasonable, but who is a silly policeman under that circumstance who will not be compelled to use his gun? The suspect’s claim he was not a trespasser automatically loses its credibility and validity. More so if the law enforcement officer has all the reasons to believe he committed a crime.
Rather, that attempt to escape is an indelible presumption that the suspect was a trespasser. It was flight, as criminal lawyers would put it. It is for this why the crew of the Taiwanese fishing boat cannot now make that preposterous claim they were outside our territorial waters. If they were fired upon, it was because they refused to stop, and they did that purposely to avoid being intercepted and boarded for inspection. They feared our coast guard would discover their illegal catch.
Mr. Chang makes a hue on our use of words like “poaching” and “thievery” in referring to incidents involving Taiwanese fishing boats. But it is on record that cannot be disputed that there have been numerous incidents of poaching or illegal fishing carried out by Taiwanese fishing vessels inside our territorial waters. Every now and then, our Coast Guard would intercept Taiwanese fishing vessels, and an unaccounted number of illegal incursions has happened in the past, this not to mention those that were not reported by some of our corrupt law enforcement authorities. Taiwanese fishing vessels have been caught illegally fishing as far as Palawan and the Sulo archipelago. This, Mr. Chang tried to cleverly avoid.
On the other hand, this column will stand by the fact that not a single Philippine fishing vessel or fisherman has ever been caught illegally fishing within Taiwanese territorial waters. Only in instances of trying to avoid a storm where some of our vessels are stranded or have sought refuge in Taiwanese ports. Yet, Mr. Chang refuses to admit that Philippines sea has almost become their second richest fishing ground. This is why many of our fish stocks have been seriously depleted to the brink of extinction.
Maybe the use of such hard words as “poaching” and “thievery” are uncalled for if there has been no previous incident and basis to our assertion. Unfortunately, Mr. Chang has not been honest enough to admit that to do so would be tantamount to laying down his own predicate that Guang Da Hsin No. 28 was another of those Taiwanese fishing vessel caught in the act of poaching well within our territorial waters. After trying to outrun and out maneuver our chasing coast guard vessel, it now insists it happened outside of our territorial waters which is unacceptable to any man of reason and of common sense.
Third, Mr. Chang also tells us that 59 bullets penetrated the left side of Gaung Da Hsin No. 28. Granting his claim is correct, then I wonder why the fishing boat did not sink. Holes of that number would allow seawater to seep in, causing the vessel to sink. On the contrary, it managed to speed its way to Taiwanese port with no visible signs of limping its way to reach the port. With that number of bullets, it is also a wonder why only one of the crew members was killed.
Besides, even if Taiwan insists its vessel was fired upon when it was already outside of our territorial waters, still that argument is unacceptable. They should have known that patrol ships whose territorial waters was violated have that right to chase any vessel trying to evade arrest or avoid boarding inspection, and the chase is based on the “principle of hot pursuit”. The right of hot pursuit will only cease once that intruding vessel enters the safety of its own territorial waters. This should have been taken into account by Mr. Chang!
Finally, maybe I was grossly misinformed, but his case is worse because his duty is not to tell the truth, and that is obvious and premeditated by the way he argues things. As press director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, his duty is primarily to protect the interest of his country and its nationals, and not to seek justice in the name of verifying the truth.