Fishermen stage protest at Philippine office in Taipei

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 14, 2013 - Page 1

Hundreds of fishermen from across the country yesterday staged a protest outside the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, demanding that the Philippines apologize for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman.

“Admit the mistake! Apologize! We want justice!” the fishermen, representing more than 30 fishermen’s associations across the country, shouted as they threw eggs at the building where the MECO is located amid heavy rain.

“This is very upsetting. The Philippines must pay for what they did,” National Fishermen’s Association Taiwan general manager Lin Chi-chang (林啟滄) told the crowd. “We will not stop until we receive a positive response to our demands from the Philippines.”

“A fisherman was killed. The Philippines must say something,” he added.

Tsai Tien-yu (蔡天裕), mayor of Pingtung County’s Liouciou Township (琉球) where the fisherman was from, said that, whatever the reason, shooting an unarmed fisherman cannot be justified.

“The killing happened on Thursday last week, but the Philippines has refused to admit its mistake and apologize. Everyone in this country must stand united,” he said.

A MECO official, Sergio Eulogio, came out from the heavily guarded building to receive a letter from the protesters. However, he quickly had to retreat into the building after several protesters rushed toward him.

Unhappy with Eulogio’s brief appearance, the protesters burned several Philippine flags.

Tsai Fu-jung (蔡富榮), general manager of Taitung County’s Chenggong District Fishermen’s Association, said that last week’s incident was not the first time that a Taiwanese fisherman had been killed by Philippine government personnel.

“Seven years ago, two brothers from Taitung County were also shot by Philippine law enforcement. One was severely injured, while the other died,” Tsai Fu-jung said. “To this day, the Philippines has not said anything about it.”

While fishermen from Hsinchu City have never fallen victim to Philippine government agencies, Hsinchu District Fishermen’s Association general manager Tung Chin-chieh (童錦杰) said that fishermen from Hsinchu had joined the protest to support their fellow fishermen.

“Whatever happens, law enforcement agencies should never use firearms against unarmed fishermen. It’s clear that killing — not expelling — was their aim,” Tung said.

Many passersby stopped to show their support for the fishermen.

Although the protest targeted the actions of the Philippine Coast Guard, it also stirred nationalistic sentiment, with some passersby shouting “expel Filipino workers.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉) called the Philippines “a gangster” and “a savage country.”

Prior to the protest, the fishermen also went to the legislature, where they were received by Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and the KMT caucus, who condemned the Philippines and voiced their support for government action.

Earlier in the day, a small group of Taipei City councilors from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and pro-independence organizations held a protest in front of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office.

Meanwhile, both DPP and KMT lawmakers showed their concern about the shooting at a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, where Coast Guard Administration Minister Wang Jinn-wang (王進旺) made a special presentation on the issue.

Responding to the lawmakers’ questions, Wang said that the Coast Guard would consider extending its temporary enforcement line to better protect fishermen’s rights.