TAIPEI—Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou Wednesday froze the hiring of Filipino workers to express “strong dissatisfaction” over Manila’s handling of the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman as Taipei rejected Manila’s apology as informal and insincere.
“President Ma expressed his strong dissatisfaction over the Philippines’ lack of sincerity and its shifting attitude,” Lee Chia-fei told reporters, adding that Ma had decided to recall Taipei’s envoy to Manila.
Antonio Basilio, the Philippines’ de facto ambassador, had also been asked to return to Manila to “help properly handle” the case, she said.
The 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead by the Philippine Coast Guard last week after his boat had apparently strayed into Philippine waters.
Deep regret and apology
Taiwan foreign minister David Lin told reporters that “the Philippines has voiced deep regret and apology for the incident” after a closed-door meeting with Antonio Basilio, the de facto Philippine ambassador to Taipei.
The Philippine government will send a special envoy to Taiwan to convey his apologies and condolences to the family of Hung Shih-cheng, who was shot dead on Thursday, Basilio said.
“Chairman (Amadeo) Perez will repeat his deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines to the people of Taiwan and the family of Mr. Hung for the grief and suffering from his death,” Basilio said, adding that the Philippines would provide “financial assistance” to the victim’s family.
Perez is chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) that represents the Philippines’ interest in Taiwan.
But Premier Jiang Yi-huah said his government was displeased with the apology. Taiwan will not accept anything short of a Philippine government apology, he said.
He said it was unacceptable that the apology comes from the “people of the Philippines” rather than the government as it was the Philippine Coast Guard that shot the fisherman.
“The shooting was conducted by one of its civil servants, and its government could not evade the responsibility,” he said, adding that Taiwan wants to be informed about whether the culprit will be charged, jailed or dismissed.
Second wave of sanctions
Lee reiterated Ma’s demands that Manila issue a “formal apology,” compensate the victim’s family, apprehend the killer and start fishing talks between the two sides soon.
“If the Philippine government cannot satisfy our side’s four demands by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) today, our government will adopt a second wave of sanctions,” Lee said.
According to Lin, the two sides agreed to jointly launch an investigation into the incident, which sparked outrage in Taiwan and comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Lin said Taiwanese investigators would fly to Manila Thursday while their Filipino counterparts travel to Taiwan to inspect the fishing vessel and interview three witnesses who were on the boat at the time of the incident.
The two sides also agreed to open fishery talks “as soon as possible” so as to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents.
The state Central News Agency had said the naval exercise would be held Thursday, involving a Kidd-class destroyer, a Perry-class frigate and three coast guard frigates. A number of fighter jets would also be involved in the drill, which would for the first time simulate the Philippines as the enemy.
“The Philippines has made some positive reactions towards our demand,” Lin said when asked if his government would still consider sanctions against Manila, adding that the pledges from the Philippine government would need to be further evaluated.
It was not clear from his remarks whether the naval drill would still go ahead.
The Philippine Coast Guard has admitted firing at one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels it said had strayed into its waters, allegations denied by the victim’s son who was with his father and two other sailors on the boat at the time.
Taiwan prosecutor Liu Chia-kai described the incident as “nothing but a slaughter”, after examining the boat which he said was hit by more than 50 bullets.
Taiwan at the weekend sent four coast guard and naval vessels to protect its fishermen in waters near the Philippines, while President Benigno Aquino has called for calm and given assurances of an in-depth investigation.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea. With a report from Associated Press
Originally posted at 10:57 am | Wednesday, May 15, 2013