Pinoy workers in Taiwan told to restrict movements
THE Philippines is waiting for tempers in Taiwan to cool before settling the dispute over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman while Malacañang has urged workers to limit their movements.
Issues such as the one-China policy and charges by the Taiwanese that the incident was tantamount to murder had complicated the situation, said Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office.
“We are waiting for the right time because I was told by the secretary-general for Asian affairs we should wait for the temperature in Taiwan to cool,” Perez said in an interview with dzMM radio.
“The Taiwanese are highly emotional and the media in Taiwan are heating things up so tempers are running high.”
On Sunday, the Palace reminded Filipino workers on the island to restrict their movements to their homes and places of work to avoid the fury of the Taiwanese.
In a radio interview over Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Philippine Representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio had already advised Filipinos there to avoid going out.
“I spoke to Mr. Basilio this morning and he said, he issued an advisory to our countrymen to limit their going out,” Valte said.
She reminded Filipino workers to report any incidents of harassment or maltreatment to the MECO.
The Justice Department said Sunday that it was premature for Taiwanese investigators to conclude that the shooting death of the fisherman on May 9 was intentional.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation has not yet completed its investigation into the incident and has not come up with any conclusive findings yet.
De Lima declined to comment on the reports that the NBI has found several violations of rules of engagement during the incident, but NBI investigators so far gathered evidence indicating that the Coast Guard acted in self defense against an aggressive act by the Taiwanese fishing vessel.
De Lima said she was unsure how thorough the Taiwanese investigation could be.
“We advise everyone to just wait for the results of the NBI investigation and avoid making any speculations or premature disclosures from so-called insider sources,” she added.
De Lima also said premature findings would further fuel tensions between the Philippines and Taiwan.
A 17-member investigative panel arrived from Taiwan Thursday and left Saturday after the Justice Department rejected their request for a joint probe on the grounds that this would violate the country’s sovereignty.
The team also did not gain access to the incident report or statements by the Coast Guard personnel involved in the incident.
De Lima assured the Taiwanese authorities that the NBI would conduct “a fair, thorough and expeditious probe to arrive at a just and credible conclusion.”
Citing sources privy to the probe, earlier reports said the NBI had initially found that while the Coast Guard personnel were in a defensive stance and merely wanted to prevent the Taiwanese vessel from fleeing, they might have violated rules of engagement in doing so. Even the firing of warning shots might have violated these rules, the sources said.
Earlier, personnel involved in the incident said the Taiwanese fishing vessel tried to ram the Coast Guard ship.
Coast Guard chief Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena on Sunday declined to speak further on the issue amid reports that President Benigno Aquino III might relieve him.
“We already gave our statement during our [news] conference. It is now up to Malacanang to give statement. The case is already under investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation, so we do not want to comment on the matter anymore,” Isorena said.
Nine members of the PCG and three members of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources were under investigation for the death of Taiwanese Hung Shih-Cheng, 65.
The incident has stirred up angry reactions in Taiwan, which has imposed 11 sanctions and refused President Aquino’s apology as “insincere.”
A Taiwanese delegation will soon again visit the Philippines to investigate the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by a Philippine government patrol boat after both sides finalize details on how they will cooperate, Taiwan’s Central News Agency quoted Foreign Minister David Lin as saying on Sunday.
Both sides must establish a communication mechanism and agree on the details of cooperation before Taiwan again sends an investigation team, Lin said.
Lin’s remarks came one day after a Taiwanese delegation of prosecutors and officials from the justice and foreign ministries, along with the Fisheries Agency, returned to Taiwan after being snubbed by the Philippine government while seeking a joint investigation.
After arriving in Manila on May 16, the Taiwanese investigators sought to work with Philippine government officials to set up a joint investigation into the incident, but failed to reach a consensus with Manila.
The Philippines’ representative to Taiwan, Antonio Basilio, has expressed Manila’s willingness to conduct a joint investigation with Taipei following the May 9 shooting incident.
Lin described the difficulty faced by the team as they were confronted by the Philippines’ response to Taipei’s 11 sanctions against Manila, which were imposed because Manila failed to meet Taiwan’s four demands over their handling of the shooting.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said Sunday three additional large vessels had been dispatched to the waters south of Taiwan since May 10 to increase the protection for Taiwanese boats in the wake of the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in the area.
The ships can pinpoint the locations of Taiwanese fishing boats every four hours through a vessel monitoring system and can then adjust the areas they cover to deal with any contingencies.
The vessels and their crews are equipped with a variety of weapons, including 20mm guns, T75 light machine guns, Uzi submachine guns, T65 rifles and 9mm pistols. They were also to be fitted with more powerful 40mm guns at a later date, the official said.
The CGA said Taiwan’s economic zones overlapped to a considerable degree with those of China, Japan and the Philippines, and the country was following the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to demarcate the boundary lines according to international law.
The Philippines’ Justice Department has agreed to cooperate with Taiwan to investigate the shooting under the framework of a parallel investigation. Investigators from both sides had made requests to visit each other’s country to look into the case, and the requests had been approved by each side, Lin said.
However, Taiwan and the Philippines have engaged in a diplomatic tussle since a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources shot up a Taiwanese fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, while it was operating in the overlapping economic zones of the two countries on May 9.
A 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, was shot dead during the incident.
As part of the sanction measures against the Philippines, Taiwan has recalled its representative to the Philippines, asked the Philippine representative in Taipei to return to his country to assist in handling the case, and froze the hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan. The other punitive measures against Mania include issuing a red travel alert for the Philippines and suspending high-level exchanges, such as a ministerial-level meeting at the coming World Health Assembly.
Taiwan has demanded that the Philippines issue a formal apology, compensate the victim’s family, investigate the case and punish those responsible, as well as begin fishery talks with Taiwan. -With Rey E. Requejo and Florante S. Solmerin
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