Taipei slaps sanctions on Manila after weak apology
Attempted apology by Philippines over killing of Taiwanese fisherman rejected as 'insincere', leading to flexing of island's military muscle
Taipei stepped up its diplomatic reprisals against Manila yesterday in protest at the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard last week.
First, it put a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers and recalled its envoy in Manila.
Hours later, it suspended a host of exchanges with the Philippines and imposed barriers to tourism.
In a sign that it is flexing its military muscle over the incident, Taipei also sent two warships to join a flotilla of naval and coastguard vessels in a joint drill today.
The exercise will take place in waters near the overlapping "exclusive" economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines. Taipei imposed the two rounds of sanctions yesterday after insisting that the Philippines had failed to show adequate sincerity in apologising for the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.
He was killed when the Philippine coastguard shot at a small, unarmed fishing boat in contested waters last Thursday.
Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said yesterday: "Although the Philippines has issued a statement expressing its deep regret and apology over the incident … we have found [the statement] totally unacceptable for its description of the death of Mr Hung as a case of unfortunate and unintended loss of life."
Citing the many bullet holes all over the 15-tonne Taiwanese boat, Jiang said the shooting was far more than "unintentional", making it impossible for his government to accept the apology.
Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement that Philippine President Benigno Aquino had appointed Amadeo Perez as his personal envoy.
The statement said Perez would "convey … the Filipino people's deep regret and apology to the family of Mr Hung Shih-cheng as well as the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life".
Lacierda's statement was released to Taiwanese media by Perez after he was refused a meeting with Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin shortly after arriving in Taipei yesterday.
He was told he did not have "adequate authority" from the Philippine government.
The statement also said Manila was launching a top-level probe into the case. Perez had hoped the statement would be accepted by Taiwan and lead to an end to the sanctions.
But Taiwan's foreign ministry said the statement had not been signed by Aquino and had been issued only by his spokesman. This made Taiwan doubt whether Perez had sufficient authority and whether the Philippines was showing adequate sincerity.
Premier Jiang also said Manila had been "oscillating in its handling of the case", making it necessary for Taiwan to take further retaliatory actions in addition to the freezing of the hiring of Filipino workers earlier in the day.
The freeze was announced by Jiang in the first round of sanctions, which also included a demand that the Philippine representative to Taipei, Antonio Basilio, return to Manila.
The second round of eight retaliatory measures included issuing a red travel alert for the Philippines to discourage sightseeing or business trips. It also included the suspension of high-level exchanges, such as ministerial-level meetings and meetings on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, next week.
Taiwan also stopped issuing online visas for Filipinos. Last year about 200,000 Taiwanese visited the Philippines, while around 40,000 Filipinos visited the island. There are nearly 90,000 Filipino domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan
Taiwan's military said it would hold regular military exercises in waters south of Taiwan.
A Kidd-class destroyer and a Lafayette-class frigate set sail from southern Taiwan to take part in a joint drill with the Taiwanese coastguard today.