Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) yesterday declared to the world that the government has an unwavering determination to safeguard its sovereignty and fishing rights, as he demanded that the Philippine government take full responsibility for an incident that resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fisherman.
In response to a media inquiry regarding the concerns of the international community over increased military activity involving Taiwan and China in reaction to the incident in the South China Sea, Lin told an international press conference that Taiwan’s actions had the purpose of maintaining peace and stability in the region.
The Ministry of National Defense would continue to assess the situation as it evolves, but “our position will remain unchanged,” Lin said.
“What I want to emphasize here is that our determination to protect and safeguard our sovereignty and dignity of our national interests, including fishing rights, shall not be underestimated. We will continue to watch the situation,” Lin said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the international press conference to explain to the international community the government’s stance on the shooting of a Taiwanese fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, by Philippine government personnel on May 9, killing fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).
In a prepared statement, Lin said responsibility for the incident must lie with the Philippine government.
The excessive and unnecessary use of force against the Taiwanese fishing boat in the two nations’ overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) violated both international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said, adding: “Such outrageous behavior cannot be tolerated by the international community.”
Taiwan has made four demands to Manila — a formal apology from the Philippine government, proper compensation to Hung’s family, punishment of those responsible for the shooting and negotiations on a bilateral fisheries agreement to prevent a similar incident from happening.
“The response from the Philippine government up to now is not positive enough, not sufficient and not concrete,” Lin said.
Lin said the government “acknowledge[s] the official apology” from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III through presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and his personal representative, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez, when he visited Taipei earlier this week, but that Taipei feels strongly that the way the Philippines described the incident as “unintended” was totally unacceptable.
Since the Philippine government claims that the case is still being investigated and no conclusion has been made, “there is no basis to say that it was an ‘unintended’ loss of life,” Lin added.
Lin countered a statement by Lacierda on Thursday that Manila had already gone the extra mile and that the incident occurred during a fisheries law enforcement operation within Philippine waters.
The incident actually took place in the two countries’ overlapping EEZs, not in the Philippine EEZ as claimed by the Philippine government, Lin said.
Philippine government personnel killed an unarmed fisherman “in an unacceptable act of violence” and then the Philippine vessel fled the scene without offering help to the disabled fishing boat, contravening international law and humanitarian principles, Lin said.
Taiwan has sent a team to the Philippines to look into the case, but it has been reported that the Philippines has rejected a joint probe.
According to media reports in Manila, Philippine Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the agency had rejected the proposal of a joint investigation.
The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the case, has already made progress in its probe and bringing in a Taiwanese contingent may cause “interference,” De Lima said.
“But the two countries can cooperate with each other on their individual investigations,” De Lima said, adding that “we will see up to what extent the cooperation between the two teams of investigators should be, but it’s not going to be a joint investigation.”
Lin called on the Philippine government to enter into a joint investigation with Taiwanese law enforcement personnel, as it has committed to a thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious investigation.
MECO and its counterpart, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila, “have already made arrangements for coordination between our investigating team and theirs, under the provisions of the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters concluded last month,” Lin said.
An official familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that Taipei has received a letter from Perez after he returned to Manila on Thursday saying that the Philippine government would permit a joint investigation.
In the past two days in Manila, Taiwan’s investigation has established some preliminary contacts with related government agencies, including the Philippine Department of Justice, Lin said.
"This is the first step, the Philippines will also send an investigating team to Taiwan,” he said.