The fishing boat that was fired upon by a Philippine government vessel was riddled with bullet holes, suggesting that “heavy weapons” were probably used in the incident, a Taiwanese prosecutor said yesterday.
A total of 52 bullet holes were found on the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, Liu Chia-kai (劉嘉凱) from the Pingtung District Prosecutors’ Office, said after examining the 15-tonne vessel that is registered in Liouciou Township (琉球), Pingtung County.
Investigators found 10 holes on the port side, where the bullets penetrated parts of the boat that are quite thick. This means they may have been fired from “heavy weapons,” such as machine guns, Liu said.
Ballistics analysis will be carried out on the bullets that were found on the boat, and the 52 bullet holes have been photographed as evidence, he added.
The boat is “a scene of devastation,” said one of the forensics technicians who examined the boat, which is now docked at Ta Fu fishing port on Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球) off Pingtung.
Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), 65, was killed when the Philippine Coast Guard vessel opened fire in the incident on Thursday.
Prosecutors said Hung was killed by a bullet that penetrated the right side of his neck. Liu has asked that Hung’s body be taken to Kaohsiung for forensic examination.
The shooting took place 164 nautical miles (304km) southeast of Taiwan’s southernmost tip, in waters in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines.
Taipei said Manila should take full responsibility for the shooting, which it described as an “excessive use of force.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) yesterday said a government task force to investigate the shooting was expected to meet with Philippine authorities in Manila this week to jointly probe the incident.
“We hope the joint investigation will begin as soon as possible so that both sides can sit down and go through a cross-verification process,” Lin said.
Under the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the interagency task force is composed of representatives from the Coast Guard Administration, the Fisheries Agency and the Ministry of Justice, Lin said.
Manila has characterized the incident as an “intrusion” into its territorial waters and said that the Philippine personnel had been properly carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing after aggressive acts by Taiwanese ships.
Taiwan rejected the claims.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said the government would present evidence disproving Manila’s claims.
Lin and Philippine Representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio yesterday visited the family of Hung in Pingtung to convey their condolences, during which Basilio again offered an apology on behalf of the Philippine government.
Lin reiterated Taipei’s three demands: that the Philippine government offer an apology to the Republic of China government, provide compensation for Hung’s family and bring the culprit to justice.
Separately yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) called for support from lawmakers across party lines for a proposed amendment to the Shipping Act (航業法) that would allow deep-sea fishing and commercial vessels to hire armed civil guards for their protection.
The Ministry of National Defense said it would step up naval and air patrols to protect fishing vessels.
The CGA said it had dispatched two ships — one equipped with a 20mm cannon and the other with a 40mm cannon — for daily patrols of the waters between Taiwan and the Philippines.
More vessels will be dispatched to the waters during the upcoming peak fishing season, it added.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang