MANILA, Philippines—A Philippine special envoy visited Taiwan Thursday to offer “official apology” for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coast guards in May as Taipei announced plans to lift 11 retaliatory measures it had imposed on Manila to force legal action.
The National Bureau of Investigation announced on Wednesday the result of its investigation of the shooting death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shin-chen, 65, and said it was recommending homicide charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
On the same day, Taiwanese prosecutors announced the result of their own investigation and brought homicide charges in Taiwan against the eight Filipino coast guards.
On Thursday, Amadeo R. Perez, chair of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), which handles relations between the Philippines and Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, led a Philippine delegation that traveled to Liuqiu Island in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, to offer the government’s apology to the family of Hung.
Perez, in televised comments, said he wished to convey “the Philippine people’s deep regret and apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shih-chen over this unfortunate loss of life of their beloved one.”
“May I respectfully present our official letter of apology to the family of Mr. Hung on behalf of our President and our people,” Perez told Hung’s widow before giving her the letter of apology and shaking her hands.
In a telephone interview with the Inquirer on Thursday, Perez denied reports that the government had agreed to pay NT$10 million (P14.4 million) in compensation to Hung’s family.
“Only an apology and no monetary compensation will be discussed. The government will not give money to the fisherman’s family,” Perez said.
The Inquirer spoke with Perez as he was on his way to Liuqiu Island. Agence France-Presse quoted his televised comments to Hung’s widow in a report filed from Taipei.
He said the apology would be “verbal.”
“No letter. The apology will be verbal,” he said.
Perez said this was the second time the Philippine government had apologized to Hung’s family for the fisherman’s death.
“The first time was on May 15, but that was not successful due to unfortunate events,” he said, but did not elaborate.
Lifting of sanctions
Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed support for the Philippine government’s decision to bring homicide charges against the eight coast guards, and said it hoped the retaliatory measures could be lifted as soon as possible.
Perez said a separate meeting would be held for the lifting of the retaliatory measures, particularly the freeze on new jobs for Filipinos in Taiwan.
In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco), which handles relations between Taiwan and the Philippines, said the Taiwan government “expresses affirmation of the Philippine government’s recommendation for homicide charges” after the investigation of the shooting death of Hung.
“The (Republic of China) government expresses affirmation of this recommendation as a constructive response to the incident,” Teco said.
Hung was shot dead during a high-speed chase between a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and the fisherman’s boat off Balintang Island, in waters claimed by both the Philippines and Taiwan, on May 9.
The NBI found that eight coast guards took part in the shooting of the fleeing fishing boat and that they wrongfully used deadly force on the unarmed vessel.
The Philippine Coast Guard said Thursday that it “respects the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation.”
Commander Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesperson, said the command would “let due process take its natural course.”
He said the command would “extend legal assistance” to the eight coast guards facing homicide charges for the fatal shooting of Hung.—With reports from Jerry E. Esplanada, AFP and The China Post/Asia News Network
Originally posted at 05:28 pm | Thursday, August 8, 2013