PH orders probe, reiterates apology to Taiwan
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang reiterated its apology to Taiwan for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in the hands of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and has ordered an investigation into the incident that has triggered a diplomatic row between Manila and Taipei.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started a "thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious" investigation into the death of 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shi-chen, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press statement.
Hung was killed after their fishing boat, allegedly trespassing into Philippine territorial waters, was shot at by the PCG last Thursday, May 9. "The NBI has given this case the highest priority," the statement said.
Lacierda also reiterated the appointment of Amadeo Perez as President Benigno Aquino III's "personal representative" to "convey his and the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology" over Hung's death, which they call an "unfortunate and unintended loss of life."
Perez is the chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), which is the de facto diplomatic mission of the Philippines in Taiwan. The country abides by the "One China" policy, which only recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China, based in Beijing, and not the government in Taipei.
"We understand the grief and hurt of the family and of the people of Taiwan over this unfortunate loss and we empathize with them," the statement said.
"Tony Basilio already has expressed regret and apology. Usec. (Abigail) Valte also has issued a statement and this is our statement of apology also," he told reporters.
"Our statement has been very emphatic with respect to our deep regret over the incident and this also an apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shi-chen," he added.
Lacierda added that they have a letter addressed to Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin, but did not disclose what it contained.
This comes after Taiwan recalled its envoy to Manila and froze the hiring of Filipino workers, a result of its rejection of the Philippines' "inadequate" apology for the incident.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is insisting for a formal apology, compensation for the victim's family, apprehend the killer, and to start talks on fisheries issues.
Taiwan's Premier Jiang Yi-huah said it was unacceptable that the apology came from the "people of the Philippines" rather than the government as it was the coastguard that was responsible for the shooting.
Antonio Basilio, the Philippines' de facto ambassador who made the apology after a meeting with Foreign Minister David Lin on Tuesday, May 14, had also been asked to return to Manila to "help properly handle" the case, spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei said.
"If the Philippine government cannot satisfy our side's four demands by 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) today, our government will adopt a second wave of sanctions," Lee said.
These would include a "red" travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials.
There are currently 87,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan and labour authorities said nearly 2,000 new applications to work are submitted monthly.
The Philippine government has also been consistently calling for calm amid the spat.
"We appeal for calm. We appeal for sobriety on this unfortunate incident…. let us not involve our Filipino compatriots there," Lacierda said in a press briefing Wednesday. "They are there working and they are there working for an honest living. So we ask them not to involve our Filipino citizens."
The government also hopes Taiwan would "revisit" its decision, but they are nonetheless preparing for contingencies.
"Philippine civil servants killed a person and damaged the boat, the Philippine government cannot avoid responsibility," he said. - with reports from KD Suarez and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com