THE Philippines is currently reviewing a proposed fisheries agreement with Taiwan, which would facilitate law enforcement mechanisms on fishery matters in waters off Batanes but would exclude talks on maritime boundaries, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing that the Philippine government "is in the process of reviewing a facilitated mechanism on law enforcement cooperation on fishery matters between the two countries."

The purpose of this agreement "is to provide guidelines for law enforcement officials on both sides to address the incidents at sea."

The proposal for the agreement was born out of the May 9, 2013 incident between a Taiwanese fishing vessel and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) at the Balintang Channel off the waters of Batanes Island where one Taiwanese fisherman allegedly killed.

The incident sparked outrage in Taipei and affected bilateral ties. The agreement was one of the measures proposed to address the issues in Taiwan's and the Philippines' overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Jose was quick to clarify, though, that the fisheries agreement will not touch on maritime boundaries and demarcation in waters shared by Manila and Taipei.

The Philippines adheres to the One China Policy, which sees Taiwan as a renegade island of mainland China, meaning it would not be able to directly discuss with Taiwan issues on maritime and territorial borders.

The recent incident near Batanes where the PCG and the Taiwanese Coast Guard had a two-hour standoff in the Philippines' EEZ raised again the issue of maritime borders.

The fisheries agreement, which the Philippines is allowed to sign as long as it's a non-government to government basis, will set "procedures for arrest of fishermen, detention, how to handle cases like these."

It will lay down procedures on who to contact when arrests are made on Filipino or Taiwanese fishermen, Jose added.

"No maritime boundary delimitation here, only how to manage illegal fishing," he said, adding that they are treating the incident as purely a fisheries issue, and is not hinged on any overlapping territorial and maritime claims.

The department also cannot file a diplomatic protest on the incident.

If there will be a protest, only the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) are allowed to handle it.

Like China, Taiwan claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including waters in the northeast region, although their claims are relatively dormant in nature compared to what mainland China has been doing in the region--turning reefs into artificial islands that can house military facilities. (CVB/Sunnex)