Aquino apologizes for Taiwan fisher’s death

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ISLAND ON FIRE Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah speaks during a press conference in Taipei on Wednesday where he announced Taiwan would recall its representative and discourage travel to the Philippines. AP

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Wednesday formally apologized to Taiwan for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino Coast Guards in disputed waters off Batanes last Thursday.

Aquino also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the killing of fisherman Hung Shi-cheng, 65, whose boat had strayed into Philippine waters.

Aquino asked Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) Chairman Amadeo Perez to convey his and “the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology” to the family of Hung “as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters in Malacañang.

The Philippine apology came hours after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou froze the hiring of Filipino migrant workers to express “strong dissatisfaction” over the Aquino administration’s handling of the killing of Hung.

Taiwan rejected an earlier Philippine apology that it found “flippant” and demanded that Manila formally apologize, compensate Hung’s family, punish the killers, and start fishing talks between the two sides soon.

Second wave

“If the Philippine government cannot satisfy our side’s four demands by 6 p.m. today (Wednesday), our government will adopt a second wave of sanctions,” said Lee Chia-fei, a spokesperson for the Taiwanese government.

The Taiwanese government also said it would conduct naval drills in waters near the Philippines if Manila did not formally apologize for Hung’s death.

Antonio Basilio, the Philippines’ de facto ambassador to Taipei, returned to Manila on Tuesday to explain the Taiwanese position to President Aquino.

Perez left for Taipei on Wednesday carrying Aquino’s formal apology. He was  scheduled to meet with Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin.

Lacierda declined to disclose the contents of the President’s letter,  just saying that “as far as the Philippine government is concerned, we have expressed (deep regret). Our statement has been very emphatic with respect to our deep regret over the incident, and this is also an apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shi-chen.”

He said Aquino himself made the decision to apologize to Taiwan.

No decision has been made yet on the demand for compensation for Hung’s family, he said.

‘Highest priority’

Lacierda said Aquino had ordered the NBI to conduct an impartial investigation.

“Upon orders from the President, the National Bureau of Investigation has already started the investigation and is committed to a thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious investigation of the incident. The NBI has given this case the highest priority,” Lacierda said.

The Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have started investigating the shooting, which happened in waters 80 kilometers off Batanes province last Thursday.

Eleven Coast Guards and two Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) employees involved in the incident have been relieved.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting have yet to be established, although the Coast Guard claimed that the incident was triggered by the Taiwanese fishermen themselves when one of their fishing boats tried to ram a Coast Guard vessel, which was jointly operated with the BFAR.

The DFA remains mum on the shooting and investigation. DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters on Wednesday that there was “no update” on the steps being taken by the government to deal with new tensions with Taiwan over the killing of Hung.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the NBI would “determine what really happened” and “whether anyone should be held accountable for the death of the Taiwanese fisherman.”

NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said a team of agents would leave for Taipei “immediately” to talk to the crew of Hung’s boat, the Guang Ta Shin 28, and inspect the vessel.

The investigation in Taiwan is necessary to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident, Rojas said.

The NBI would finish the investigation as fast as it could, he added.

Spare the OFWs

Lacierda renewed Aquino’s call for calm amid deepening outrage in Taiwan over the killing of Hung.

He said the government was looking into reports that Filipino workers in Taiwan were being maltreated following the incident.

Asked if the Aquino administration was forced to issue a formal apology because of the ultimatum issued by Taiwan, Lacierda said, “This is a recognition of our actions toward what we feel is a prudent decision on our part.”

‘Sincere gesture’

He hoped that the apology would be enough to hold off the sanctions that Taiwan had threatened to impose, including a freeze on hiring Filipino migrant workers.

“We certainly would hope that the authorities in Taiwan would see this gesture as sincere. As we have seen over the news, they claimed that this is insincere. Far from being insincere, we have time and again expressed our deep regrets and apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shi-chen,” he said.

Lacierda said the government had received information on the freezing of new jobs.

He said Perez would “discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities in Taiwan.”

“We will certainly hope that they will revisit their decision. But, nonetheless, we are preparing for the contingencies,” he added.

There are about 42,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the government had not yet received any reports of Filipinos losing their jobs in Taiwan.

“None so far. But if there are cases, they will be handled first by the Manila Economic and Cultural Office,” Baldoz said.

She said earlier that the government was looking for alternative markets, including South Korea and the Middle East, for Filipino migrant workers who would be affected by the new tensions between the Philippines and Taiwan.—With reports from Nancy Carvajal, Christine O. Avendaño, Tarra Quismundo, Tina G. Santos and AFP

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  • reddfrog

    Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, have
    expressed their support for Taiwan over the past few days. Steve
    Chabot, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific Affairs,
    issued a statement jointly with ranking member Eni Faleomavaega
    Wednesday, calling the shooting “an act of violence” that was “in
    violation of international law.” “We call upon the Philippines
    to promptly and sincerely respond to the requests of the Taiwan
    government to apologize, punish the perpetrators and provide proper
    compensation to the victim’s family based on humanitarian grounds,”
    they said. The call was echoed by Matt Salmon, chairman of the
    Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “I urge the Philippine
    government to fully apologize, provide appropriate compensation for the
    crewman’s family, and conduct a thorough investigation of this matter
    in order to ensure accountability,” Salmon said in a statement
    Thursday. “In addition, I hope this unfortunate incident can
    actually serve as a catalyst to bring the two governments together to
    negotiate an appropriate fishing contract between the two countries,”
    he added.

    • Analyst

      The US simply wants this issue to be solved, as they support both Taiwan and the Philippines. They want a clear understanding among their allies of borders and fishing regions, so that fishermen will clearly know where to go and where not to go and such incidents won’t happen again…

      • Ryan Nieh

        That is not boundry. 20 North is just a line for administrative convenience. And that was not accident, it was MURDER!!!

      • Analyst

        I use the word “incident”, “not accident” as per Merriam Webster dictionary definition: “an action likely to lead to grave consequences especially in diplomatic matters “.

        Exactly because lines are being interpreted differently by each country, there is urgent need to clarify where fishermen can go and where fishermen cannot go.

      • Analyst

        I use the word *incident* (and not *accident*) as per Merriam Webster dictionary definition: an action likely to lead to grave consequences especially in diplomatic matters (a serious border incident).

        Exactly because lines are being interpreted differently by each country, there is urgent need to clarify where fishermen can go and where fishermen cannot go.

  • VerticalPropulsion

    Taiwan is like a cry baby. Doing tantrums if it’s wishes is ignored.hahahahahahaha

    • Ryan Nieh

      Murderer must pay blood money!!! Justice must be served!!!

  • Responsible Citizen

    In the first place, Taiwan gov’t don’t want to patch up things. Even if we will sincerely apologize, they will still find other ways to humiliate us like. They will demand to lick their butt, shine their shoes with our tongue or demand that whole Phil islands will be theirs. let’s move on… I salute the move of our Palace. let us still maintain our dignity and sovereignty.

    • Victoria Shine

      IT’S Ridiculous!
      What are the benefits of become enemies with Philippine?
      Do you know Philippine has Mutual defense agreements with USA?
      Let your government stop lies, sincerity resolve, end event quickly.
      No one want War.

      • citizenH

        Philippines can’t even fight or stamp out the NPA or the Abu Sayyaf, how can they protect themselves from a formidable foe like TAIWAN? Taiwan can take over the Philippines in 48 hours or less. STOP the corruption and political dynasties so the country can prosper.

    • citizenH

      Start acting like mature adults and the rest of the world will treat you with respect. Philippines in not a country, IT’S A BIG JOKE. The country is run by a bunch of non-cultured retards mostly from the same family.

      • CatalystZero

        We all know how civilized Taiwanese politicians are.

  • ztefertilizerscam10

    boycott product made in Taiwan(low quality)

    • Ryan Nieh

      Boycott product made in Philippine (what product? banana?)

      • topolcats

        Pussy!!……….never! LOL

    • citizenH

      Philippines products are even of lower quality. Learn to respect other people. chipmunk…..

  • neo822

    BOYCOTT Taiwanese products or Made in Taiwan.

  • tongky80

    we already apologized, the taiwan president is fanning the flame to divert attention from a waning economy. they better not push it,

  • lex

    Kung sa kabila ng paghingi natin ng apology at paggawa ng mga bagay bilang patunay na ginagawa ng Philippine Government ang part natin, AT AYAW PA RIN NILA…. Wala na tayo magagawa. ACCEPT the CONSEQUENCES and Prepared for the WORST. Let’s MOVE ON! HINDI NAMAN SA TAIWAN LANG PUEDE MAG WORK ang Mga PILIPINO!

  • CatalystZero

    Taiwan doesnt seem interested in any type of apology, they are not interested at what really happened, before any investigation their leaders had turned it to a media circus. They fanned the flames as hot as they can and called all the presses, makes me wonder about the objective of the Taiwanese politician.

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