President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to continue negotiating with the Philippines to conduct a joint investigation into the fatal shooting of 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) by Philippine Coast Guard personnel, calling for both sides to adopt a pragmatic attitude to unveil the truth behind the incident.
“President Ma believes that the incident requires both sides to cooperate with each other on the investigation pragmatically, and only by doing so can the truth be revealed,” Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) told a press conference last night after the conclusion of a meeting on national security that Ma had attended.
Taiwan and the Philippines have been engaged in a diplomatic tussle since a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources shot at the unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 while it operated in the two countries’ overlapping economic zones s on May 9.
A Taiwanese investigative team returned from Manila yesterday after making little headway in its probe. The delegation — consisting of prosecutors and officials from the justice and foreign ministries, and Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency — had arrived in Manila on Thursday.
They tried to work with Philippine government officials to set up a joint investigation into the incident, but failed to reach a consensus.
After the Taiwanese team returned yesterday without having made any progress, Ma called for the continuation of talks between the two nations, saying that the incident was an opportunity for Taiwan and the Philippines to implement the mutual legal assistance agreement they signed earlier this year.
Lee said that Ma had asked the foreign and justice ministries to seek a consensus with Manila based on the principle of reciprocity.
She stressed that the negotiations had not failed and said the government’s investigation team would continue its efforts to find the truth when the Philippines is “ready.”
Yesterday’s national security meeting was the third one held since last week.
Earlier yesterday, at a news conference at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport held shortly after the delegation’s return, Chen Wen-chi (陳文琪), head of the Ministry of Justice’s Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs, said the delegation had made some progress on initiating a judicial investigation with the Philippine Department of Justice, but that further negotiations were needed.
In addition, citing the navigational record of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, Chen said that the incident had occurred while the boat was in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone and that it had not entered the Philippines’ territorial waters.
Taiwanese investigators’ findings contradict the Philippines’ claims that the shots were fired in self-defense after the Taiwanese boat tried to ram it, she added.
Chen said Taiwan has expressed to the Philippines that it hopes to put the people thought to be responsible for the shooting on trial. If the Philippines is disinclined to grant this request, Taipei has asked it to severely punish the perpetrators.
Before the delegation returned to Taiwan, Chen had told an international news conference in Manila that the Philippines’ attitude on a joint investigation was “capricious” and “dishonest.”
Reading a prepared statement, Chen said that Philippine Representative to Taiwan Antonio Basilio had expressed Manila’s willingness to conduct a joint investigation into the incident and that Taiwan had made requests for mutual judicial assistance to the Philippines before the team had departed for Manila.