Taiwan and the Philippines exchanged teams of investigators yesterday in a bid to settle a diplomatic row over the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard.
Eight Filipino investigators, led by Daniel Daganzo, the head of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation's foreign liaison office, arrived in Taipei yesterday for what is being described as a "parallel probe".
"We have exchanged views with the Philippine delegation over how our two sides can co-operate," Chen Wen-chi, the Taiwanese Justice Ministry official in charge of the case, said after a closed-door meeting with the Filipino investigators.
She said the Philippine side had made 11 requests for legal assistance, including a study of an autopsy report on Hung Shih-cheng, the 65-year-old fisherman killed by the Philippine coastguard on May 9 while he and three other crew were operating in waters in which the 200-nautical mile "exclusive economic zones" of the Philippines and Taiwan overlap.
Other assistance sought included examining evidence from Taiwanese prosecutors, visiting the boat said to be scarred by more than 50 bullet holes, and reviewing the log of the voyage, which Taiwanese prosecutors have said provides proof that the boat did not intrude into Philippine waters.
Daganzo said his team would leave for Pingtung in southern Taiwan today for a meeting with local prosecutors to examine evidence and they would review the boat's log tomorrow.
Meanwhile, six Taiwanese investigators flew into Manila yesterday in two separate groups to join two colleagues who arrived there on Sunday. The group discussed their schedule with Philippine National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Virgilio Mendez and confirmed the 10 requests made by Taiwan.
Taiwan's Deputy Justice Minister, Chen Ming-tang, said the investigators were conducting a forensic examination of the firearms yesterday.
Mendez was quoted by Philippine television station GMA as saying that the Taiwanese team would inspect the vessel the coastguard had been operating on today. He was also quoted as saying there was "no problem" for the Philippine side to show the Taiwanese team video footage of incident.
The shooting triggered public outrage in Taiwan, with Taipei demanding an official apology, compensation for the victim's family, punishment of those responsible and the holding of fisheries talks. Manila insisted the fishing boat was in its waters and had tried to ram the coastguard vessel. Taipei later announced 11 retaliatory measures, including a hiring freeze on Filipino workers, the imposition of barriers to tourism and the suspension of a host of government-level exchanges and co-operation programmes.