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MARITIME INCIDENT

Taiwan's anger rises as Manila stands firm

Threat of new sanctions include cutting direct flights as Philippines says it has 'gone the extra mile' after apology rejected as 'insincere'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 5:28am
 

Taiwan may impose new sanctions on the Philippines after Manila toughened its stand over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by its coastguard last week.

Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah was deciding whether to impose further sanctions to put pressure on Manila to make a formal apology and punish those responsible for the shooting, a Taiwanese cabinet spokeswoman said yesterday.

We did what any decent member of the international community should have done
Edwin Lacierda, Spokesman

She declined to speculate about possible new sanctions, but Taiwanese media said they could include the suspension of flights between the island and the Philippines.

Taiwan has already imposed two rounds of sanctions, including a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers, imposing barriers on tourism, recalling its envoy from Manila and demanding that the Philippines envoy return home. A series of government-level exchanges and co-operative programmes were suspended.

The latest development follows Manila's announcement on Thursday that it "had gone the extra mile" to respond to Taiwan's demands, and insisted its coastguard opened fire after repeated attempts by the small Taiwanese fishing boat to sink the patrol vessel - which was almost 10 times heavier.

"We did what a decent member, a respectable member, of the international community should have done … and we have gone the extra mile," Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in news footage aired by Taiwanese media.

He was referring to Philippines President Benigno Aquino sending his special envoy to Taiwan on Wednesday to apologise to the Taiwanese people, only to be rejected by Taipei for a lack of sincerity.

The envoy's description of the incident as an "unintended" loss of life was angrily rejected by Jiang, who said it was an intentional shooting, given that the 15-tonne Taiwanese boat was riddled with at least 50 bullet holes from a machine gun.

Lacierda's deputy, Abigail Valte, said the Philippines was seeking "alternative markets" including South Korea, the Middle East and Malaysia following Taiwan's hiring freeze. She also said the government was not threatened by Taiwan's military drills.

"As long as the activity is within their borders or on the high seas, then it should not be a concern for us," she said, referring to a joint military and coastguard drill staged by Taiwan on Thursday in waters near the northern Philippines to step up pressure on Manila.

Taiwan's military said its navy and coastguard vessels had entered an area where the "exclusive economic zones" claimed by the two sides overlapped, and at one time were just 24 nautical miles from the Philippines' Batan Island.

The comments from Manila triggered fresh uproar in Taiwan, with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou accusing the Philippine coastguard vessel of "defying international law and engaging in cold-blooded murder".

Taiwan's foreign minister, David Lin, urged the public not to harass Filipino workers in Taiwan. "We call on people to treat them well," Lin said. Manila advised thousands of Filipino workers on the island to eat at home and avoid the streets following several reports of harassment.

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