Philippines rejects Taiwan ‘murder’ claims

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 3:34pm

The Philippines on Saturday rejected Taiwan’s allegations that its coastguards had intentionally murdered a Taiwanese fisherman whose death has triggered a major diplomatic spat.

The 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead by Philippine coastguards who said his vessel intruded into Philippine waters.

Chen Wen-chi, head of the Taiwan team investigating the May 9 incident, said most of the bullets had hit the fishing boat’s cockpit where its crew hid.

“By combining the... evidence, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder,” Chen told a news conference in Manila.

The shooting, which Manila insists occurred inside Philippine territorial waters but which Taipei counters happened within its exclusive economic zone, has led to Taiwanese sanctions against its neighbour.

President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Ricky Carandang rejected the murder allegations.

“There is an investigation ongoing so any premature statements that tend to confuse the issues and inflame passions should be avoided,” Carandang told AFP.

Manila has warned its 87,000 nationals who work in Taiwan to stay indoors after a Filipino man was allegedly hospitalised in a baseball bat attack in Kaohsiung city.

Chen’s comments echoed those made by Taiwan President Ma Jing-jeou in Taipei on Friday.

“If [Philippine] civil servants used automatic weapons to fire at unarmed and provocative fishing boats, this was not carrying out their job duties. This is cold-blooded murder,” Ma said.

Aquino made a “personal” apology on Wednesday over the “unintended” death arising from the patrol’s duty of protecting Philippine waters against illegal fishing.

Taiwan has rejected the apology. It recalled its de facto envoy, banned the hiring of new Philippine workers and staged a military drill in waters off the northern Philippines earlier this week.

The Philippines officially recognises Beijing over Taipei but maintains trade ties with the island.

Chen, of the Taiwan justice ministry’s department of international and cross-strait legal affairs, said her team was flying back to Taiwan immediately because their Filipino counterparts showed a “lack of sincerity and credibility”.