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PH to pay Taiwanese

Govt offers NT$1-m in aid; another payment up The Philippines’ resident representative in Taiwan said Wednesday the government has offered NT$1 million (about P1.38 million) as assistance to the family of the Taiwanese fisherman who was shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in the waters off Batanes on May 9, on top of a still undetermined amount as compensation. The announcement from Antonio Basilio of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office came as the Palace reported that tension over the shooting had “eased a little” in Taiwan, where several attacks against Filipino workers were reported. Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino III’s statement thanking the Taiwanese for their assurances that Filipino workers on the island would be protected was “received well” in Taipei. “From what we have seen, tensions have already eased a little,” she added. In a separate interview, Basilio said the government has yet to arrive at a final figure for the compensation for the death of Hung Shih-cheng, the 65-year-old fisherman. “We are in the process of finding out what is acceptable. It will be premature to disclose any figure at this point,” Basilio said. Basilio said compensation will be made in NT dollars, “regardless of the outcome of the investigation” on the circumstances surrounding Hung’s death. Basilio said the Philippine government has already made a donation of NT$1 million. Hung was killed when Philippine Coast Guard personnel opened fire on the fishing boat Guang Ta Hsin 28 for allegedly ramming their boat to thwart attempts to apprehend them for entering the country’s waters. Basilio also said that he has already sent a memo to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that he never offered a joint probe with Taiwan. “I never said that there will be a joint probe. I think it was a problem of translation because they interpreted our commitment to cooperate as a joint probe when we were only referring to information exchange,” he said. Del Rosario accepted his explanation, Basilio added. On Tuesday, Mr. Aquino said the National Bureau of Investigation has already concluded its investigation into the incident and that only the physical examination of the Taiwanese fishing vessel remains to be done. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Taiwanese government has allowed the NBI to gather evidence in Taipei to complete its probe. An NBI team that would leave soon will be allowed to interview Hung’s companions and examine their fishing vessel, De Lima added. “More or less, we now have a substantive and clear picture of what really happened,” she said. De Lima said she has also viewed the video of the incident submitted by the Coast Guard to the NBI. “It’s very revealing,” she said, but declined to offer any details. Taiwan has called on Manila to make the video public, but the Philippines has so far refused, causing doubt about the recording’s existence or authenticity. De Lima stood firm on her earlier pronouncement that the incident happened in Philippine waters, contradicting a claim by the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Manila that the incident took place within overlapping exclusive economic zones of Taiwan in the Philippines, 39 nautical miles off Batanes. In retaliation, Taiwan has suspended the hiring of Filipino workers and imposed a travel alert against travel to the Philippines. Valte said the Tourism Department will shift its focus to other tourism markets amid reports of cancellation of hotel reservations of Taiwanese bound for the Philippines. “Of course we’re hoping also that this will come to pass,” she added. Valte acknowledged that the travel alert will have an impact on the tourism industry since Taiwan is the fifth largest market for foreign arrivals. In Taipei, the Ministry of Justice said the Philippines has filed a request for bilateral judicial assistance in the case. Justice Vice Minister Chen Ming-tang said Taiwan would announce its decision on the request after it has received it. On May 15, Taiwan announced 11sanctions against the Philippines, including a freeze on the hiring of new Filipino workers, the recall of its representative from Manila and a red-level alert for travel to the country. Taiwan has said the sanctions will only end when Manila meets its key demands, including a sincere apology, compensation for Hung’s family, the prosecution of those responsible for the shooting and a start of work toward a fishery agreement. Also on Wednesday, the Philippine National Police assured Taiwan nationals that they were safe despite tensions between the two countries. PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. advised Taiwanese nationals to go to a nearby police station if they think they are threatened. Amid strong anti-Filipino sentiment, a reporter in Taiwan was fired for fabricating a story about a diner refusing to serve Filipinos. The reporter, identified only as Cheng, wrote on his Facebook page that he witnessed a diner owner refusing to sell boxed lunches to two men after discovering that they were Filipinos, according to Lih Pao newspaper. When Cheng’s superior asked to meet the owner to verify the story, the reporter sent an impostor and later admitted that he never saw the incident take place, the newspaper said in its apology. With Rey E. Requejo and Francisco Tuyay
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