Taiwan threatens sanctions over fisher’s death
TAIPEI—President Ma Ying-jeou said on Saturday Taiwan will consider sanctions against the Philippines amid widespread public outrage at Manila over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman.
“We will definitely seek justice for our fisherman. We will not rule out the possibility of taking any kind of sanction” against the Philippines, Ma said while inspecting a coast guard drill in central Taiwan.
“The Philippines shot an unarmed fishing boat. This is very brutal and cold-blooded,” he said, reiterating Taipei’s demand that Manila apologize, apprehend the killer and pay compensation.
Some Taiwanese lawmakers urged their government to freeze the hiring of Filipino workers in protest after the Philippines admitted that its Coast Guard had fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat.
Ma said the Philippines should not have used force against a Taiwanese fishing boat in the two countries’ overlapping exclusive economic zone.
“No country should use force against an unarmed fishing boat. Foreign officials can at most board a fishing boat for inspection,” Ma said during a community outreach visit to Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
Ma said the government had condemned the attack by a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship on the Taiwanese fishing boat—the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28—on Thursday that resulted in the death of 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.
“No country is entitled to enforce the law to an overdue extent, much less use force against a civilian vessel,” Ma said, describing such moves as “uncivilized acts.”
Abigail Valte, deputy spokesperson for President Aquino, said Philippine authorities had launched a “transparent and impartial investigation” into the incident.
She expressed hope that economic ties with Taipei would not be affected, adding that the Coast Guard crew involved in the incident had been suspended to ensure a fair probe.
“Let’s wait for the investigation,” Aquino’s spokesperson Ricky Carandang told AFP when asked to comment on Taiwan’s sanctions threat.
Sympathy, not apology
Ma’s government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing to apologize and saying that its Coast Guard was tackling illegal fishing.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said on Friday the incident took place in Philippine waters and the Filipino personnel were properly carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing.
“If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” Balilo told reporters.
Hung’s son has insisted that the boat did not cross into Philippine waters.
In addition to demanding an apology, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Philippine government to punish the officials involved in the attack, pay due compensation and ensure that the tragedy will not be repeated.
“We demand that the Philippines pursue the incident to the end, and we will not stop our pursuit until the issue is appropriately resolved,” Ma said.
The Philippines’ top envoy to Taiwan on Saturday offered an apology to the family of the deceased fisherman.
“We’d like to convey our sincerest condolences and apologies to the family of Mr. Hung,” Antonio Basilio, the Philippines’ de facto ambassador to Taiwan, said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Words cannot express our sorrow for the loss of life of Mr. Hung,” he added.
Basilio said that his government would continue to investigate the circumstances that led to the “tragic incident.”
The Philippines welcomes a joint investigation led by law enforcement authorities to establish the location of the incident and the circumstances that led to the tragedy, he added.
Basilio, head of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) in Taipei, made the remarks in front of reporters at the MOFA headquarters, following his meeting with Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Joseph Shih.
Basilio was summoned by the MOFA to explain Manila’s stance on the matter.
In Manila, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Saturday the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources were looking into Thursday’s incident.
In a statement, Del Rosario said the result of the investigation will soon be released.
“The PCG and BFAR are now investigating the incident which resulted in the unfortunate loss of life of a Taiwanese fisherman during the routine lawful enforcement activities against poaching in Philippine waters,” said Del Rosario.
The PCG had said its personnel only acted in self-defense in shooting at the Taiwanese fishing vessel after the latter allegedly tried to ram the Philippine patrol boat.
PCG Commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena has ordered a thorough investigation, and the 11 PCG personnel on board the MCS 3001, the vessel involved, have been relieved.
The 30-meter-long MCS 3001 belongs to BFAR and was jointly manned by personnel from the PCG and BFAR. AFP, with reports from Tarra Quismundo, Tina G. Santos and The China Post/Asia News Network
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