Philippines-Taiwan ties returning to normal

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05:41 PM August 9th, 2013

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By: TJ Burgonio, August 9th, 2013 05:41 PM

Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA—Some Filipino workers are again packing their bags for Taiwan in a sign that the once strained relations between Manila and Taipei are returning to normal.

With Taiwan’s lifting of sanctions against the Philippines following a Philippine apology over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman three months ago in disputed waters between the Philippines and Taiwan, Malacañang on Friday expressed confidence that relations between the two countries would normalize soon.

“We did get word that they are lifting sanctions, the ones that they levied because of the incident. But then, you know, hopefully this recent development will contribute to the resolution of the issue and then will return relations to normal,” Palace spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in a phone-patch conference with reporters.

The lifting of the ban on the deployment of more Filipino workers, imposed in protest on the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shin-chen, was a clear sign of the normalizing relations between the two countries,  said an official of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, the closest thing to a Philippine embassy in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Philippines.

“We have heard from some OFWs that they have been told by their co-workers waiting in Manila that they have been advised to prepare to be deployed,” MECO permanent representative Antonio Basilio said in a text message before flying back to Manila from Taipei.

Basilio, who was part of the MECO delegation that flew to Taipei to deliver the apology to Hung’s family, said they also received a report that the Council of Labor Affairs has begun processing work permits.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin announced the lifting of all sanctions Thursday night following the visit by MECO officials during which chair Amadeo Perez offered a verbal apology to Hung’s family.

This came a day after the National Bureau of Investigation announced its recommendation to file homicide charges against eight members of the Philippine Coast Guard for the death of Hung, who was killed when the Coast Guard men fired on a Taiwanese fishing boat allegedly poaching in Philippine waters last May 9. Taiwanese prosecutors also filed homicide charges in Taiwan against the eight coast guards.

Both governments conducted parallel investigations into the high-speed chase between a Coast Guard-manned vessel and a Taiwanese fishing boat in the Balintang Channel, which both countries claim as part of their respective territories.

Meanwhile, Valte said the executive department was confident that the Coast Guard personnel would continue to do their job despite observations that the NBI report was a blow to their morale. She said the NBI report was based on evidence presented by all parties.

“And we’re pretty confident that the Coast Guard will continue to be vigilant and will continue to guard our waters to the best of their abilities and that moving forward, they will take measures to ensure that the similar incident does not happen again,” she said.

With the NBI recommendation, Valte said that the next step would be for the Department of Justice to conduct a preliminary investigation.

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