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Philippines rejects Taiwan’s allegations of murder

Taipei says fisherman was killed intentionally by coast guard officers

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

The Philippines on Saturday rejected Taiwan’s allegations that its coast guard had intentionally murdered a Taiwanese fisherman whose death has triggered a major diplomatic spat.

Hong Shi-cheng, a 65-year-old fisherman, was shot dead by the Philippine Coast Guard, who said his vessel intruded into Philippine waters.

Chen Wen-chi, director of Taiwan’s Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs and head of the team investigating the May 9 incident, said most of the bullets had hit the fishing boat’s cockpit where its crew were hiding.

“By combining the . . . evidence, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder,” Chen said in Manila.

She told a news briefing, held at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in Manila, that “the Philippine government has tried to prolong and delay our requests for a joint investigation.”

“Although we made some progress (Friday), we still feel discontent with the lack of sincerity and credibility exhibited by the Philippine side in cooperating with our team,” said Chen, who is heading the 13-member investigation team that arrived in Manila on Thursday.

The shooting, which Manila insists occurred inside Philippine territorial waters but which Taipei counters happened within Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone, has led to Taiwanese sanctions against its neighbor.

The Philippine Coast Guard initially said that the Bureau of Fisheries vessel, which was involved in the incident, encountered the Taiwanese vessel some 43 nautical miles from Balintang Island in the northern part of the Philippines, well within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesman, Ricky Carandang, rejected the murder allegations.

“There is an investigation ongoing so any premature statements that tend to confuse the issues and inflame passions should be avoided,” Carandang said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in a separate statement, also urged everyone to refrain from making statements “that would further fuel or aggravate the prevailing tension between the Philippines and Taiwan.”

Chen’s comments echoed those made by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in Taipei on Friday.

“If (Philippine) civil servants used automatic weapons to fire at unarmed and provocative fishing boats, this was not carrying out their job duties. This is cold-blooded murder,” Ma said.

Aquino made a “personal” apology Wednesday over the “unintended” death arising from the patrol’s duty of protecting Philippine waters against illegal fishing.

Taiwan has rejected the apology. It recalled its de facto envoy, banned the hiring of new Philippine workers and staged a military drill in waters off the northern Philippines earlier last week.

The Philippines officially recognizes Beijing over Taipei but maintains trade ties with the island, which employs about 87,000 Filipinos.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday urged Taiwan to ensure the safety of Filipino workers following reports of attacks by angry Taiwanese.

“We heard and we read in the papers that they have been hit by bats and four have been hospitalized,” Binay told reporters, according to an official transcript released by his office.

“We are appealing to the Taiwanese people to spare our overseas Filipino workers from conflict,” he added.

Taiwanese media reported that a Filipino was treated in hospital after being attacked by a gang of youths.

“We’ve seen reports that their leaders have assured the safety of our people there. We expect them to act on these reports (of attacks),” Aquino spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

Nearly 10 million Filipinos live or work abroad, and the tens of billions of dollars in earnings that they all remit back to their homeland every year help prop up the Philippine economy.

Taiwan’s Chen added that even if the Philippine Coast Guard officers were on antipoaching patrol, “they should follow the procedures of warning, dispelling, boarding and detaining the illegal vessel, then, proceed to the legal procedure, according to the relevant regulations of the international maritime law.”

Chen said Taiwan is, however, willing to welcome an investigation team from Manila, should the Philippine government decide to send one.

  • Pareto

    this is the best balanced report I have read on this incident. it clearly state why Taiwanese cannot accept Aquino’s personal apology on “unintended” death.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ace.aceman.37 Ace Aceman

    In what world would an unarmed fiberglass fishing boat attempt to ram an official patrol ship armed with more than 10 M-16, M-14, and machine guns?

    Lets even assume further that if there was such attempt to ram the patrol ship, you needed to send them 59 bullet holes in order to stop them?

    And to clarify the Philippines lies, the incident happened outside of Philippines territorial boundaries, and the location is within 200 miles eez to BOTH countries. In most cases where there is such overlap, the 2 countries would negotiate to settle a mutually agreed upon boundaries. Up to today, Taiwan is very willing to enter into negotiations regarding such boundaries, Philippines is not. Thus defined as disputed waters.

    Another lie regarding “Taiwan not accepting apology”. Philippines wants Taiwan to accept an apology for “unintentionally causing death”, and strongly denied that the killing was intentional. Please anybody tell me how you would “unintentionally” kill someone by sending 60+ armor piercing shots their way? (this doesn’t include shots that missed the fishing boat altogether!

  • TW Huang

    I would say never have your citizens killed at sea by the Philippines because they will offer you the worst, arrogant apology then insist they’re decent and respectable.

    You will feel angry and helpless cuz you just don’t know what to do to prevent the same tragedy happen again.

  • reddfrog

    PCG is as corrupt as the rest of Philippine government. They are known to be professional extortionists and operate no differently than Somalian pirates. According to fishermen, they would demand ransom or bribes or they will confiscate their boats. They will also plant dynamites and accuse the fishermen of illegal fishing. The Taiwanese and Chinese navy should thus treat these PCG no different from pirates and blast them out of the water on sight.

  • Ricky070

    I just want to let the readers know that the location where the incident took place is well below south of the internationally recognized maritime border between Taiwan and the Philippines (Bashi Channel separate Taiwan and the Philippines). And the incident where it took place was well within the Archipelagic Baseline of the Philippines meaning it’s inside Philippines territory. And for an archipelagic nation like the Philippines, the 12 nautical mile starts from the baseline of the country and not from land. Please google “Philippines Archipelagic Baseline”.

  • garushiya

    I am just wondering why there is only one fisherman killed if the Philippine Coast Guard intends to kill them and why would the Philippine Coast Guard let them go?

  • MQLARA

    Better wait for the results of investigations from both parties and UN, better to keep quite and listen, better to do good than make another violence/crime to both people… Better not to put another flame on it bcoz it would not finish the issue and may cause more lives and pain in both countries… May the peace be with our hearts and mind…

  • joe c

    I’d like to provide you guys with some information here. Those who speak without solid ground need to check out laws before posting comment in order not to downgrade themselves.

    1. A country territory only includes those water within 12 nautical miles from coast

    2. An EEZ (Exclusive Economy Zone) is NOT a territory but a water anywhere from coast within 200 nautical miles a country claims to have ECONOMY right. A coast guard vessel do NOT have the right to kill but only stop, search, seize or (if nothing found) let go freely of a foreign ship.

    3. A country has the right to claim an EEZ only if this country has signed a international treaty. In another sense if a country (for example, US) did not sign the treaty this country represents two intentions: a. Reserve the right to claim it’s EEZ, b. Do not recognize EEZ of other countries. Good example is Canada has signed the treaty while US does not. If a vessels were to show up in Canada EEZ the Canadian Coast Guard MAY, accordingly Canadian Law, have the right to stop and search this US vessel while this US vessel has the right to refuse been stopped and been searched (because US did not sign this international treaty). Remember only those who signed the treaty has the right to claim EEZ but it is not in anyway affect other countries who did not sign this treaty.

    4. Because a Coast Guard only has the right stop or seize a foreign ship or let go freely in EEZ, Continuous shooting 59 bullets (not including those went into water without trace) is definitely a crime even the Philippine coast guard claimed this Taiwan ship posted threaten to them (we do not know it is true or not, let just wait to see). The point is even there WAS a threaten, once a threaten has ended the coast guard must immediately stop fire and they are not allowed to keep chasing with continuing fire. Simple and easy, Just like any criminal can be shoot dead only if a criminal posts immediately threaten to a law enforcement, once the threaten is no more the law enforcement must cease fire but only try to take custody of this criminal.

    5. This incident was happened 160 nautical miles south of Taiwan, 50 -60 nautical miles north of Philippine, which clearly sated it is an EEZ (Exclusive Economy Zone) can be claimed by both. For the very same reason why it is called “Disputed Water” because both countries has the right to claim it is their EEZ.

    Mind all readers here we are talking about human right. Do not miss the point. What is right is right, wrong is wrong. Personally I do not buy what the P Coast Guard said. What do you think?

  • Vince Lee

    A bigger problem is China is coming to get oil, fish and many other resources from the phillippines. China is going to walk all over phillippines. And in the future, Taiwan will NOT help phillippines during china harassments. It was not a smart move by the Phillippine coast guard who tried to kidnap a fisherman and get ransom money.