President vows to stand firm on demands in row with Philippines

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou promised the relatives of a fisherman who was killed recently in an incident involving a Philippine patrol vessel that the Taiwan government will stand firm on its demand for an apology and compensation for the family's loss. The government will also offer better protection to fishermen working in waters between Taiwan and Philippines, Ma said during a visit to the family's home on Siaoliouchiou Island off Pingtung County on Sunday. Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was shot dead on May 9 aboard the fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 that was operating in an overlapping economic zone of Taiwan and the Philippines. The boat was fired upon by a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Hung's family, including his son who is the boat's skipper, pleaded tearfully with the president for the government's help to obtain justice for the fisherman's death. Taiwan's Presidential Office has called on the Philippines to issue a formal apology, compensate the victim's family for their loss, investigate the incident and punish the perpetrators, and start fishery agreement talks with Taiwan as soon as possible. If the Philippines fails to respond appropriately by midnight Tuesday, Taiwan will suspend importation of Philippine labor, recall its representative in Manila, and ask the Philippine envoy in Taiwan to return to his home country, the Presidential Office said. Meanwhile, Ma said the government will streamline its mechanism for responding to accidents at sea. Hung's family has complained that it took too long for a rescue helicopter to be sent out after the fishing boat called for help. (By Chen Ja-fo and Kay Liu)