Taiwan vows to protect Filipinos from attacks

The move comes after reports the Philippines is ready to evacuate its nationals from the island

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 4:11am

Taiwan yesterday ordered all law-enforcement personnel to step up the protection of Filipinos on the island, after a suggestion that Manila might evacuate its nationals from the island after hearing reports of attacks targeting them.

"We have instructed all prosecutorial and law-enforcement agencies to step up protection and take preventive measures against any assaults and harassment of Philippine nationals in Taiwan," Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu told reporters.

His comments came after reports of at least three assaults on Filipinos in Taiwan amid a continuing row between Taipei and Manila over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard on May 9 in waters where 200 nautical miles of the two sides' "exclusive economic zones" overlap.

"Those caught doing so will be arrested and face criminal charges," he said.

Yesterday, Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency as saying that the Philippines might evacuate its 87,000 workers in Taiwan. "Should the need arise, we are prepared to evacuate," she told the agency, but stressed at the moment "there seems to be no need".

Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday the two sides had tentatively agreed to a "parallel" probe into the incident, which the Philippines stressed was "unintended", but which Taipei insisted was "cold-blooded murder", judging by the more than 50 bullet holes found on the small fishing boat.

Hung Shih-chen, 65, one of the four crew on the boat, was shot dead by machine gun-armed Philippine coastguard members, who claimed it was an act of self-defence as the boat attempted to ram their vessel, which was about 10 times heavier than the Taiwanese boat.

For the so-called parallel investigation, Taipei and Manila would send investigators to examine the findings, including evidence and testimonies given by all parties, Taiwanese Foreign Ministry officials said.

Officials at Taiwan's Ministry of Justice said they hoped to send investigators to Manila today, and Filipino investigators would go to Taiwan. They said Manila agreed Taiwanese investigators can examine the patrol boat and coastguards' guns, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

Philippine Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the Philippines would make "co-ordinated efforts" with Taiwan to look into the fatal shooting.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's agriculture minister, Chen Pao-chi, proposed that the cabinet cancel a self-imposed restriction and allow the island's coastguard to patrol the disputed waters.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse