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Balintang shooting incident: Probers agree on exact spot

PH, Taiwan note same global map coordinates Probers from the National Bureau of Investigation and their Taiwanese counterparts have agreed on the location of the Balintang Channel incident where a Taiwanese fisherman was killed by coast guardsmen on May 9. “There is no argument,” NBI Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez said, referring to the exact coordinates of the fatal shooting incident. “We do not object to the coordinates. Meaning, the area, the specific area is the same as the Taiwanese people.” Although Mendez did not mention the exact coordinates, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office had earlier claimed the voyage data recorder of the Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin 28 was at 122 degrees, 55 minutes east and 19 degrees, 59 minutes north when the incident occured at 10:12 a.m. of May 9. “What is important and we might say a good development is that we admitted these are the same coordinates that we use,” Mendez told journalists after meeting with the Taiwanese investigators. But Mendez declined to comment on whether the location was within Philippine or Taiwanese territory. “That is not for me to talk about,” Mendez said. “As to where it is located will depend on the [territorial] map. Whether on whose direction the vessel was headed, we will come out with that later,” Mendez added. The location of the incident is relevant to the case because it relates to judicial jurisdiction, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had earlier said. “As far as we are concerned, we have jurisdiction based on our laws,” De Lima said on May 31 after the NBI team returned from their probe in Taipei. Taiwan has maintained that the incident happened at an area where their exclusive economic zone overlapped with that of the Philippines. The TECO even released a labelled map of the area and announced the coordinates. But when the labels were removed from the TECO map, the map will show that the incident happened east of Balintang Island, southeast of the Batanes islands. Mendez confirmed that the location of the shooting was a crucial aspect of the investigation. The NBI official said both teams have requested several documents and pieces of evidence from each other. Among the pieces of evidence that the NBI was asking from Taiwan are the slugs that were allegedly fired by the coast guardsmen at the Taiwanese fishing vessel. “We requested them... to present the slugs because we already had the ballistics exams. We want to see first if are we referring to the same bullet,” Mendez said. “And we wanted to know if they also have some records to show that they will be able to identify the holder of the firearm.” The NBI official also declined to comment on the whether Philippine Coast Guard personnel involved in the shooting would be criminally charged. “As I said we have to be guided by the evidence... the completion of the evidence is needed before we will come out with final report with recommendation,” Mendez said. The NBI also asked their Taiwanese counterparts for a copy of the murder complaint earlier filed in Taiwan by the daughter of Hung Shih-cheng, 65, the fishermen who was killed in the incident. Mendez admitted that they are still requesting translated and authenticated copies of the medico-legal report and ballistics reports given to them by Taiwan which were all written in Mandarin Chinese. The Taiwanese investigators, for their part, asked the NBI for several photographs, as well as the memory card used in taking the video footage of the incident. Mendez said the Taiwanese team, which left for Taiwan earlier in the day, no longer needs to come back to Manila.
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