De Lima disputes report NBI team’s Taiwan trip is on hold
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Thursday denied reports that the trip by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to Taiwan has been put on hold.
De Lima told reporters that they are coordinating with Taiwanese authorities to facilitate the needs of the investigators for their trip.
“As of yesterday (Thursday), I think their visas are already being processed and the final clearance from Taiwan will be relayed anytime soon by Meco (Manila Economic Cultural Office) but initially, coordination has been made already and there really is a consensus or agreement that [the NBI] can go,” De Lima said.
Earlier, NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said the 8-man team of investigators is expected to leave the country before this week ends.
The NBI is almost set to wrap up its probe on the shooting incident at the Balintang Channel where a Taiwanese fisherman was killed. The only missing in their data is the examination of the fishing vessel and an interview with the crew.
Initially, the Taiwanese government agreed that the Philippine probers can go to Taiwan to examine the vessel, in return, the country allowed the Taiwanese probers to examine the Coast Guard vessel and firearms.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, citing a reliable source privy to the negotiations, reported that a disagreement over “the turnover of a video to the Taiwanese investigators taken by one of the men on board the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources)boat” has deferred the NBI team’s trip to Taipei.
Officials never disclosed when the NBI team was originally scheduled to arrive in Taiwan, the PDI report said.
Eric Chiang of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview Wednesday afternoon that “the two teams were to announce at the same time the start of each team’s investigation.”
Chiang said the Taiwanese side requested that any agreements arrived at by the two teams regarding their respective investigations into the May 9 killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the crew of Philippine patrol boat manned by personnel from BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard be put down in writing.
“We want a written agreement between the two teams and announce it at the same time to start the investigation here by the Philippine team and our prosecutors in Manila,” he said.