Manila to apologise to Taipei over fisherman's shooting

Minutes after deadline for a response expires, minister says Taiwan will take part in a joint investigation into fisherman’s fatal shooting

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 8:05am

Manila will send a senior envoy to Taiwan to apologise for the death of a fisherman killed by the Philippine coastguard, Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin said last night at a briefing attended by Antonio Basilio, the Philippines' representative in Taipei.

Speaking within an hour after the expiry of Taipei's deadline for a response from Manila, Lin said Taipei would also take part in a joint investigation into the incident last Thursday and hold talks on fishing in the disputed waters.

Lin's announcement came after a marathon meeting with Basilio, which lasted from 8pm to 1am. Basilio had returned to Taipei after reporting to President Benigno Aquino on Monday.

The agreement eases an escalating row between the two sides that had raised the concerns of both the mainland and the US. Manila had been given until midnight last night to apologise for Thursday's deadly shooting in waters claimed by both sides as part of their exclusive economic zones, or face sanctions and threats of military exercises.

Beijing's foreign ministry urged Manila yesterday to conduct a thorough investigation and provide a clear explanation at an early date, Xinhua reported.

The US has called on all sides to "refrain from provocative actions", and the US contacted both the Philippine government and Taiwan's officials regarding the incident, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Paski.

Taiwan responded to the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng by threatening to stage a joint naval and coastguard drill, and to extend coastguard patrols to the disputed waters.

The incident triggered outrage on Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou demanding a formal apology from Manila, warning that if one was not delivered by midnight, sanctions, including a ban on Filipino workers, would follow.

Aquino said on Monday that the incident would be dealt with by the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taipei, rather than his government, "because of the one-China policy", triggering fresh public outrage in Taiwan.

"It is totally unacceptable," Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said yesterday in response to questions about whether Taiwan would accept an apology under Manila's "one China" policy. She said the Philippines should respond formally and directly to the government in Taipei.

She said that in tackling the row, "the Republic of China government is making solemn demands from the Philippines, and the Philippines should make formal responses to the Republic of China government".

Kao said what Taipei wanted was a formal apology for the attack, monetary compensation, a thorough probe, punishment for those responsible for the killing, and talks on a fisheries pact to prevent further disputes.

Hung, 65, was one of four crew members on a Taiwanese fishing boat in the contested waters, about 300km southeast of Taiwan, when he was shot dead on Thursday by Philippine coastguard personnel. Some 50 bullet holes were found in the 15-tonne boat. Manila later confirmed the attack, but said its coastguard had been acting in self-defence.