All Taipei agencies told to ‘stand firm’
TAIWAN’S premier told his countrymen to “prepare for a prolonged ‘war’” against the Philippines, saying that the 11 sanctions imposed against Manila for the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman last week would most likely be for the long term, the Taipei Times reported Friday.
At a Cabinet meeting, Premier Jiang Yi-huah issued a directive about a slew of punitive measures and said all agencies must “stand firm,” the newspaper said.
Taipei has rejected several attempts by the Aquino administration to apologize over the incident as insincere, and demanded an official apology, compensation for the fisherman’s family, punishment for the guilty and bilateral talks over a fisheries agreement to avoid similar incidents.
But Jiang said there was no sign that the Philippines would give in to these demands, and said Cabinet members should “mentally prepare” themselves for upholding the sanctions for a long time.
He also said “a new stage of sanctions” might be imposed if it were deemed necessary, including the possibility of cutting air travel connections with the Philippines.
Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said it had decided to put on hold a meeting to discuss amendments to an aviation pact with Manila.
President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday described the May 9 killing of Hung Shih-cheng, 65,by the Coast Guard as “cold-blooded murder” while the Foreign Ministry objected to attempts by Manila to portray the fisherman as the culprit in the incident.
Speaking with members of the International Law Association, Ma said international maritime law only allowed governments to inspect ships and to make arrests, but not to open fire against unarmed fishermen, Taiwan News reported.
Aquino administration officials have insisted that Hung was killed in a police action against poachers in Philippine waters, and that the Taiwanese vessel had tried to ram the Coast Guard ship.
A team of investigators which traveled from Taiwan to Manila Thursday was refused permission to work on the case, further angering Taipei.
As Taipei ramped up its anti-Filipino rhetoric, the Philippine envoy to the island state advised thousands of Filipino workers there to eat at home and avoid the streets as emotions run high over last week’s shooting death.
Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and President Benigno Aquino III’s personal envoy, said Thursday after returning from Taipei that the government has verified at least one attack, in which a Filipino was beaten with a bat. Perez said Taiwanese police were investigating.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda appealed to Taiwanese not to harass Filipino workers or tourists in Taipei.
“We appeal to the people of Taiwan, if the reports are true, not to involve our Filipino nationals there,” Lacierda said.
“We appeal for calm. We appeal for sobriety on this unfortunate incident. Let us not involve our Filipino compatriots there. They are there working and they are there working for an honest living. So we ask them not to involve our Filipino citizens,” he said.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency said President Ma on Thursday urged the Taiwanese people not to vent their anger on Filipino workers living in the country because he said the government of the Philippines is the one who should be held responsible.
Ma said on his Facebook page that he was unwilling to see conflict occur between people from the two countries and that Taiwanese people should treat Filipino workers rationally. Just as the Taiwanese fishermen were trying to make a living and support their families, the migrant workers from the Philippines were doing the same thing in the island, Ma said.
Taiwan’s sanctions against the Philippines include an immediate ban on the recruitment of Filipino workers, the recall of Taiwanese representative in Manila Raymond Wang and an order to Philippine envoy in Taipei Antonio Basilio to return home.
Taiwan has also imposed a red-alert travel advisory for the Philippines, removed the country from its visa-waiver program, suspended high-level exchanges and cooperation in several domains, including fishing, science and technology, and aviation negotiations.
Taiwan’s Navy, Coast Guard Administration and Air Force also held a day of joint maneuvers in waters close to the Philippines on Thursday.
Talks to expand air travel between the two countries were suspended Friday.
The Aquino administration on Friday said it has identified three alternative markets for overseas Filipino workers who may be displaced by Taiwan’s hiring ban.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this is part of the contingency measures being prepared by the government.
“In light of what has happened, the Labor Department has deemed if fit to look into other alternative markets that are capable of absorbing the number of [overseas workers] who may wish to come back or who may have to leave their places of employment in Taiwan,” Valte said.
Government records show there are 85,185 Filipino workers in Taiwan, 72 percent of whom work in the manufacturing sector. Some 26 percent provide personal and social services, while 2 percent work in the fisheries industry.
Valte said the government is looking at South Korea, the Middle East, and Malaysia as alternative markets for these workers.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, former Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja said Taiwan was overreacting.
“With their entity being a province of China, giving sanctions and refusing to receive the representative of the president, what is that? Sometimes I feel we have these things coming to us because of our very timid diplomacy,” Baja said.
“A former chairman of the congressional committee on foreign affairs earlier said that Taipei is using Hung’s death as a basis for making tough demands that will force the Philippines to violate its One-China policy.
“Taiwan saw an opportunity to push for recognition as a country instead of just an economic state. Taiwan is pushing us to violate the One-China policy,” former Negros Occidental representative Apolinario Lozada said.
Lozada said Mr. Aquino should consider sending former President Fidel Ramos to Taiwan as his special envoy.
“It will be a win-win solution. The former president, because of his stature, cannot be rejected by Taiwan. And since he is already a private citizen, we will not be violating the One-China policy,” Lozada said.
Valte said the suggestion will still have to be discussed with the President.
The Justice Department on Friday said the Taiwanese investigators would be allowed to conduct a parallel investigation but would not have direct access to or be allowed to question Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also ruled out a joint probe and the direct questioning by the Taiwanese of the Coast Guard team involved in the shooting.
“We can’t just allow foreign investigators to question directly our own men. It’s a question of sovereignty. It’s a question of propriety,” De Lima said.
She also said a joint investigation was out of the question because the National Bureau of Investigation was already wrapping up its probe.
NBI Director Caesar Nonnatus Rojas said they have given the incident the “highest priority” and assured the public that their findings would be based purely on evidence.
At the press conference, Rojas presented a total of 15 long firearms—8 M16 rifles, 6 M14 rifles and a Browning machine gun -- which were surrendered to them by the Coast Guard.
He said all the guns will undergo ballistic examination and that the bureau was taking statements of the crew members involved in the shooting. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, AP, Bloomberg