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PH won’t back down from 2 China's pressure

PNoy vows to fend off ‘bully in our backyard’ President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday refused to back down despite anger in Taiwan over the shooting death last week of a Taiwanese fisherman, saying the government remained ready to defend its sovereignty. “What belongs to the Philippines belongs to the Philippines, and we can defend ourselves when ever someone tries to bully us within our own backyard,” the President said during a speech to the officers and personnel of the Navy in Fort Felipe in Cavite City. The Coast Guard personnel involved in the May 9 killing of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng claimed they fired on the Taiwanese fishing vessel in self defense as it tried to ram them while enforcing Philippine maritime law, a claim Taiwan disputes. TheTaipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US cranked up the anti-Filipino rhetoric Tuesday, calling Hung’s death “an extra-judicial killing.” Taiwan has already imposed 11 sanctions against the Philippines, including an immediate ban on the recruitment of Filipino workers, the recall of its representative in the Philippines, a red-alert travel advisory for the Philippines, and the removal of the country from its visa-waiver program. In remarks after his speech, the President said. the National Bureau of Investigation has concluded its probe of the May 9 shooting, and said only the physical examination of the Taiwan fishing vessel remains to be done. “Since the boat is in Taiwan, we are waiting for clearance for the team to go there to inspect mutually this boat to complete the thorough investigation,” Mr. Aquino said. Commenting on a Taiwanese demand that the two governments negotiate a fisheries agreement, Mr. Aquino said his administration would study what could be done given the limitations of its one-China policy. “Let us finish this issue (death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-Chen) first. Guarding the national patrimony provisions of the Constitution will come into play. So, after we finish this issue, we will talk to every neighbor that we have to ensure peaceful and equally prosperous relations with everybody,” he said. The President also disclosed his directive to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to talk to Manila Economic and Cultural Office representative Antonio Basilio over the latter’s offer of a joint probe with Taiwan that he said was unauthorized. Basilio’s May 10 letter to Benjamin Ho, director general of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, caused yet another diplomatic wrinkle when the Palace refused the joint investigation, triggering accusations from Taiwan that the Philippines was insincere. “I want to check if he went beyond our directive to him,” Mr. Aquino said of Basilio. Taiwan media on Tuesday said immigration officials would visit places with large Filipino populations to raise safety awareness amid anger over the shooting. “We will update them on the current situation, remind them to take safety precautions and provide them with contact information for the relevant authorities if they feel their safety is at risk,” said Kuo Wei-chi, captain of the agency’s New Taipei City Specialized Operations Brigade. Filipinos have been advised to only go to public places in groups, keep a low profile, avoid conflict and call the police if they are harassed, the agency said. The agency said it will also ask companies that employ Philippine nationals to protect the safety of their workers and enhance security at their places of residence. There are about 90,000 Philippine nationals in Taiwan and 7,500 are married to Taiwanese, according to government statistics. As tensions have risen, Taiwanese and Philippine media have reported that some Philippine nationals in Taiwan have been harassed or discriminated against. The National Police Agency said Tuesday that it had received three reports of Filipinos being attacked. The most recent case involved several Taiwanese youths who attacked a Filipino at his dormitory and damaged property in Hsinchu County on Sunday. On Tuesday, the captain of the Taiwanese fishing vessel, Hung Yu-chi disputed Coast Guard claims that they fired in self defense, saying he heard gunshots as the Philippine boat approached. “They were shooting by the time they got close,” his brother-in-law Hung Jie-shang, 42, said in a May 19 interview. “If we hadn’t run, we’d be dead.” The family’s account of the May 9 attack that killed the 65-year-old patriarch, Hung Shih-cheng, has triggered outrage in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou tapping the anger to put economic pressure on the Philippines to issue a formal apology. Philippine lawmakers on Tuesday said they supported parallel investigations of the incident, but said the Aquino administration should not have waited until conditions deteriorated. “We are the ones who killed the fisherman yet we were the ones who were arrogant,” said Minority Leader Danilo Suarez. Suarez said the administration should have agreed to a parallel investigation immediately after the incident. He also criticized the administration for its handling of the affair. – With Maricel V. Cruz
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