Taiwan boosts patrols in waters near PH, demands action in 72 hrs before hiring freeze

TAIPEI - Taiwan Sunday sent four coastguard and naval vessels to strengthen patrols in waters near the Philippines following public outrage over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coastguards.


Taiwan Coast Guard Ship (illustration)


A Taiwanese coastguard official waves his cap as a fleet of naval and coast guard frigates sets sail from Kaohsiung. Photo: AFP

"The government is determined to protect our fishermen," cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen said in a statement as a frigate and coastguard vessels set sail for the area where the 65-year-old fisherman was killed Thursday.

Taiwan in a strongly-worded statement late Saturday demanded Manila apologize and compensate the victim's family or face a freeze on the hiring of its nationals.

It also asked the Philippines to bring to justice the coastguards responsible and start negotiating a fisheries agreement.

"If the Filipino government fails to respond in a positive manner within 72 hours, the hiring of Philippine workers will be frozen," said presidential office spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei.

There are about 87,000 Philippine domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan and they send home hundreds of millions of dollars a year.


OFWs are seen at the Manila airport in this file photo. Taiwan, which hosts some 80,000 Filipino workers, has threatened sanctions, including a hiring freeze, if it does not get "positive" action from Manila on the shooting of a Taiwanese vessel, killing a fisherman.

More than 50 bullets hit the 15-tonne "Kuang Ta Hsin No 28", killing skipper Hung Shih-cheng. "This is nothing but a slaughter," prosecutor Liu Chia-kai said after examining the ship.

President Ma Ying-jeou Sunday visited the victim's family on an island off the southern city of Kaohsiung and promised to pursue the strong protest against the Philippine government.

Taiwan's government confirmed that websites of several government agencies, including the presidential office, the defense ministry and the coastguard administration, had been hacked, after Internet attacks on Philippine government websites were reported Friday night.

Several fishermen's groups said they plan to file a protest at the Philippine mission in Taipei Monday. Manila recognizes Beijing but not Taipei.

In Manila Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino, said Saturday that authorities had launched a "transparent and impartial investigation" into the incident.

She expressed hope that economic ties with Taipei would not be affected and added that the coastguard crew involved in the incident had been temporarily suspended from duty to ensure a fair inquiry.

Taiwan's government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing so far to apologize and saying the coastguard was tackling illegal fishing.

Philippine coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said Friday the incident took place in Philippine waters and the crew had been carrying out their duty to stop illegal fishing.

"If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology," Balilo told reporters.

The victim's son, who was with his father and two other sailors on the boat at the time, has insisted they did not cross into Philippine waters.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.

China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea.

China's state media stood by Taiwan over the latest incident, asking Beijing to "teach Manila a lesson".

The media said the Philippines was trying to vent its anger and frustration over a dispute with China about the Spratly islands.

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