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Taiwan rejects visit by Philippines investigators

Taiwan wants to board Philippine vessel and test guns

Taiwan rejects visit by Philippines investigators

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Ministry of Justice on Wednesday rejected a plan by ten investigators from the Philippines to arrive in Taiwan Thursday after a request from Manila for bilateral judicial assistance in the case of the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman.
Justice Vice Minister Chen Ming-tang said the group would not be allowed to travel to Taiwan for the time being because of its failure to respond positively to a request from Taipei to see a supposed video recording of the May 9 shooting.
A 17-member Taiwanese investigative team which headed to Manila last week to investigate the shooting and killing of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng returned home after fewer than two days when it became clear the Philippines was not interested in cooperating.
Manila has claimed that agents on board a Philippine government vessel opened fire in self-defense when Hung’s fishing trawler, the Kuang Ta Hsing No.28, tried to ram it during fishing in off-limits territorial waters.
Taiwan has accused the Philippines of attempted homicide because Hung was unarmed and working in an area where Exclusive Economic Zones of both countries overlap.
On Tuesday, the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency presented the ship’s Voyage Data Recorder, which showed that it had never been fishing in Philippine territorial waters.
The Philippine government passed the request for mutual judicial assistance through its Manila Economic and Cultural Office to Taiwan’s office in Manila Wednesday morning, Chen said.
The Philippines had agreed to allow Taiwanese investigators to board the Philippine ship involved in the shooting, the vice minister said, describing this as a positive development. However, there were no positive responses to Taiwanese requests to see the video recording of the incident or to interview the government personnel involved. 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.
On the contrary, Chen said, the Philippines wanted a new post-mortem to be conducted on Hung and demanded to interview the other crew members present on his ship, his son, son-in-law and an Indonesian citizen.
Both sides had exchanged wish lists during present talks, but Manila’s requests were obviously not based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit, Chen said.
Up to ten Philippine investigators had been expected to travel to Taipei Thursday if the request was approved, reports said.
The only point both sides agreed on was the request by the Taiwanese prosecutors to board the Philippine government vessel involved in the incident to take a look at the guns and make tests to compare them with the bullets and bullets hole found on the Kuang Ta Hsing No.28.
Last week, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation presented 15 guns present on the ship at the time, though it said it was not aware which one had fired the fatal shot.
On May 15, Taiwan announced a total of eleven types of sanctions 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.
Philippine officials said Tuesday they were willing to offer Hung’s relatives NT$1 million (US$33,500) in compensation, but on Wednesday the family initially turned down an offer of NT$2.5 million (US$83,700) collected by Overseas Taiwanese in the Philippines. They later accepted but immediately announced the donation of the money to a National Fishermen Association fund for fishing disaster victims, reports said.
President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that the Coast Guard Administration would continue to protect Taiwanese fishermen anywhere they went, but that their operations would not amount to military maneuvers. After the shooting of Hung, Taiwan’s Navy, Air Force and the CGA staged a day of joint drills in an area close to the Philippines.
The CGA had as one of its main tasks the protection of Taiwanese fishermen, while the Navy would only venture out if the CGA requested special protection itself, Ma told a ruling Kuomintang meeting after listening to a report on the incident by Foreign Minister David Lin.
The president said he didn’t want to see positive relations between Taiwan and the Philippines deteriorate, but an incident like the shooting of Hung could not be allowed to occur again.

Updated : 2022-01-21 09:25 GMT+08:00