Taiwan Demands Philippine Apology for Fisherman’s Killing
President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan said Friday, “We demand the Philippines investigate and clarify the truth, to apologize, apprehend the killer and compensate.”
The shooting occurred at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in an area between the northern tip of the Philippines and the southern coast of Taiwan, according to a Philippine Coast Guard statement. A maritime control and surveillance vessel operated by the Philippine fisheries bureau, and manned by coast guard officers, encountered four Taiwanese fishing boats in an area that the Philippines claims as part of its exclusive economic zone, according to the statement.
When the coast guard officers tried to board and inspect one fishing boat, another tried to ram the Philippine vessel, according to the coast guard statement. The Philippine ship responded by firing warning shots, and then firing on the engine and propeller of the fishing boat to disable it, according to the statement.
Foreign Minister David Lin of Taiwan disputed the Philippine version of events at a news conference Friday, saying that the Philippine government vessel had fired indiscriminately at the fishing boat, killing the 65-year-old fisherman. “We urge the Philippine government to open a full investigation on this case and send their apology to Taiwan’s government,” Mr. Lin said.
According to the Taiwanese government, the shooting occurred at a location that is within exclusive economic zones claimed by both countries. The timing of the shooting and the question of whether the Taiwanese fishing boat had in fact tried to ram the Philippine vessel are under investigation, the Taiwanese government said.
The Taiwanese government said the shooting took place 180 nautical miles southeast of the southernmost tip of Taiwan, a location that is east of several inhabited Philippine islands and much closer to them than to Taiwan. But many jurisdictions around the world, including Taiwan and the Philippines, have not negotiated clear boundaries for exclusive economic zones that overlap.
A spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Raul Hernandez, said Friday that the crew of the Philippine ship would be temporarily relieved of duties while the shooting was investigated.
But another Philippine official, Cmdr. Armand Balilo of the coast guard, said at a news briefing in Manila on Friday that the Taiwanese fishing boats had been in Philippine waters, and that his men had been lawfully carrying out their duty to stop illegal fishing.
“If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” he said. “This is part of Philippine waters.”
Beijing, which is in the midst of tense border disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea, strongly protested the shooting on Friday in support of Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway Chinese province. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, called the shooting “brutal” and said China had requested an immediate explanation.
Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.