MANILA, Philippines – Taiwanese Minister for Foreign Affairs David Lin said on Sunday, May 19, that Taipei and Manila have reached a consensus on initiating a joint investigation into the shooting of Taiwanese fisherman in Philippine waters.
“Both sides have agreed to arrange for the other side to conduct fact-finding trips in their respective countries to discover the truth behind the fatal shooting and have shown willingness to cooperate with each other during their individual investigations,” the Taipei Times quoted Lin as saying.
Taipei Times reported that the bilateral cooperation on the case was termed, both by Lin and Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, as a “parallel investigation” instead of a “joint investigation” to avoid concerns on both sides about sovereign interference.
“With the consensus, both sides will determine an agenda and items of cooperation for their investigations on the principle of reciprocity to facilitate the uncovering of the truth and subsequent punishment of those responsible,” Lin added.
Lin’s remarks came after Taiwanese probers who arrived in Manila last week returned to Taiwan without a consensus with the Philippines. He said “the tense atmosphere last week was not conducive to negotiation, which was why the investigation team returned on Saturday seemingly empty-handed.”
However, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez told Rappler that he has yet to confirm Lin’s statements regarding the parallel investigation between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Earlier, De Lima said that it would be “impossible” to conduct a joint investigation with Taiwan as the Philippines “is a sovereign country” with its own processes and justice system.
During a press conference on May 18, the Taiwanese investigators reported that the Taiwanese fisherman, 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng was “intentionally murdered” by the Philippine Coast Guard.
The Taiwanese team said that based on forensic examination by the Taiwanese authorities, bullet holes were mainly found in the cabin where the Taiwanese fisherman hid, which made the shooting intentional.
But Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang rejected Taiwan’s “murder” allegations and reminded that an investigation has been ongoing. “There is an investigation ongoing so any premature statements that tend to confuse the issues and inflame passions should be avoided,” Carandang said.
MECO’s Perez echoed Carandang and said in an interview on dzBB radio Sunday that the Taiwanese probers acted prematurely.
Perez said they were trying to set up a meeting with Philippine counterparts, and the team should have waited for the results of the Philippine investigation.
Inquirer reported that a source, who had knowledge of the investigation, said the coast guards and two Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) employees aboard the surveillance vessel MCS-3001 admitted firing on the Taiwanese fishing boat but only in “self-defense.”
“The fishing boat with passengers speaking a foreign language approached at full speed and attempted to ram the Philippine vessel, but the bigger [BFAR] vessel was able to [maneuver and the fishing boat missed it by a meter],” the source said.
The source also disclosed that after the near miss, a shirtless crewmember of the fishing boat came out on deck and made motions “as if daring the coast guards to come after his boat.”
The source said it was “unclear” whether the shirtless man who taunted the coast guards was Hung and how the fisherman was hit.
Despite the Philippine government, through MECO, has already conveyed its sincere apologies over the tragic incident, the Taiwanese government still sanctioned and ban the hiring of new workers from the Philippines.
In an interview with VOANews, Migrante International Chairman Garry Martinez said workers with pending applications for jobs in Taiwan will be hit especially hard. This is because even before they leave, they may owe recruitment and other application fees, which come to one month’s salary or more, Martinez explained.
“They’re asking for the bank to give them money and there is some collateral and the big interest to the loan shark. That is the problem they are facing now,” Martinez said.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte disclosed on Friday that the Philippines has already made a contingency plan for Filipino workers wishing to come back from Taiwan.
There are currently 87,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan and labor authorities said nearly 2,000 new applications are submitted monthly. – Rappler.com
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