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Taiwan sanctions despite PH apology

(UPDATE) Taipei pulls out representative from Manila, freezes hiring of Filipinos despite an apology by Philippine representative for fisherman's death

IN DISCUSSION. Taiwan foreign minister David Lin (L) speaks to Philippine envoy in Taipei Antonio Basilio ® during a press conference at the Taiwan's foreign Ministry in Taipei on May 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh

TAIPEI, Taiwan (3rd UPDATE) – Taiwan on Wednesday, May 15 slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, rejecting an apology by President Benigno Aquino for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman.

Philippine coastguards shot dead the 65-year-old last week after they said his vessel illegally sailed into Philippine waters and outrage in Taiwan at the incident grew amid a perceived lack of remorse in Manila.

In a bid to contain the diplomatic fallout, Aquino sent Amadeo R. Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) which handles relations with Taiwan, to the island on Wednesday to act as his “personal representative” and apologize.

“(The envoy) will convey his and the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology to the family of Mr Hung Shih-cheng, as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in Manila.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Taiwan acknowledged Lacierda’s statement but deemed it “unacceptable” that the death was described as unintended.

“Perez did not have sufficient authorization and this shows the Philippines’ lack of sincerity in resolving the incident and therefore our second wave of 8 sanctions are initiated immediately,” Jiang told reporters.

These include a “red” travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, as well as a halt to exchanges on trade and academic affairs.

Jiang urged Taiwanese to support the government in pressuring the Philippine government but said the Filipino people should be treated “calmly.”

In Manila, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda reiterated the president’s calls for calm, but declined further comment “with the objective of preventing further escalation while deliberations are ongoing”.

Basilio said the Philippines will now send special envoy Amadeo Perez to reiterate his “deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines” to the people of Taiwan and the fisherman’s family.

“The Filipino people and government understand the hurt and grief that the Taiwan people have felt at the death of the one of their fellow citizens,” he told a press conference at Taiwan’s foreign ministry.

Perez, who arrived in Taiwan around noon, is chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office which represents the Philippines in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. 

Manila recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei as the government of China.

But 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.

“Philippine civil servants killed a person and damaged the boat, the Philippine government cannot avoid responsibility,” he said.

Jiang said Perez would offer a donation from the Philippine people to the fisherman’s family and it was not clear “whether the Philippine government will be responsible for the compensation”.

He also demanded Manila clarify whether it was conducting a criminal or an administrative investigation and what kind of punishment it plans for those responsible — dismissal, imprisonment or a fine.

The shooting incident triggered public fury in Taiwan, and aggravated tensions that were already running high in the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.

China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the strategic and resource-rich maritime region.

Taiwan has threatened to conduct a naval exercise in waters near the Philippines in protest over the fisherman’s death.

There are currently 87,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan and labour authorities said nearly 2,000 new applications are submitted monthly.

In 2011, Taiwan temporarily expanded the screening period for Philippine workers and threatened to freeze hiring over a diplomatic row sparked when Manila deported Taiwanese nationals to China. –