Taiwan beefs up protection for fishermen in wake of fatal shooting

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) The coast guards and navy are working together to strengthen protection for Taiwanese fishermen operating in the waters south of Taiwan, following the Philippines' fatal shooting at a Taiwanese fishing boat in the area, the Cabinet said on Sunday. The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has dispatched one more vessel to join two others already patrolling the area, including the overlapping waters of Taiwan and the Philippines, in an effort to provide increased security to fishermen operating there, Cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wun said in a statement. Meanwhile, on the same day, the Navy dispatched a Lafayette-class frigate, with a S70-C helicopter aboard, to join the CGA's mission to protect the fishermen, the statement read, adding that the Navy will step up patrolling in the area. In addition to the Lafayette-class frigate, the Navy said it has a Knox-class frigate regularly patrolling the waters south of Taiwan. On May 9, a Taiwanese boat, Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, was strafed by a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources while operating in the overlapping economic zones of the two countries. A 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, was shot dead in the incident. The shooting took place 164 nautical miles south of Taiwan, in the waters between Taiwan and the northern Philippines, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. After the incident, the Taiwan government condemned the shooting and demanded that the Philippines issue a formal apology, apprehend the perpetrators and compensate for the losses. Late Saturday, the Taiwan government decided to take a tougher stance and threatened sanctions on the Philippines. In addition to previous requests, it demanded that the Philippines get to the bottom of the incident and initiate fishery agreement talks between the two countries as soon as possible. If Manila does not give a positive response by midnight Tuesday, Taiwan will suspend the applications of Filipino labourers seeking to work on the island, recall its representative to the Philippines and request the Philippine representative to Taiwan to return to Manila. As of press time, the Philippines' representative office in Taiwan had not commented on the demands. The Philippines' representative to Taiwan, Antonio Basilio, visited the family of the deceased fisherman and offered his apologies and condolences to the family on Saturday. He said Philippine authorities are probing the incident and will cooperate with Taiwan in its investigation to determine where and why the shooting happened. If anyone is found culpable, they will be punished in accordance with the law, he added. (By Elaine Hou)