The homicide charges recommended against Philippine Coast Guard officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in May are consistent with the country’s national interests, a Philippine newspaper said in an editorial on Friday.
While the charges recommended by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) could be unpopular with some Philippine citizens, pursuing them would be good for the country because it would solidify the Philippines’ commitment to international law, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.
“The recommended filing of charges by Filipino investigators within the Philippine justice system is itself an assertion of our territorial jurisdiction,” said the Inquirer, one of the country’s three largest English newspapers.
The editorial said that Manila itself depends on international law to defend its territorial claims in the South China Sea and resist Beijing’s territorial encroachments and military provocations.
“When it comes to our claim over the West Philippine Sea, our chief opponent is Beijing, not Taipei,” the editorial said.
The recommended charges, which have thawed relations between Taipei and Manila, will also lead to better protection of overseas Philippine workers, whose safety represents another important national interest, it said.
The Taipei-Manila row was triggered when 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), a fisherman aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, was killed by gunfire from a Philippine Coast Guard vessel on May 9 in waters where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap.
If the Philippine Department of Justice follows the NBI’s recommendations, made public on Aug. 7, the coast guard officers charged in the shooting could face sentences of between 12 and 20 years in prison.
Dissatisfied with Manila’s initial handling of the incident, Taiwan imposed sanctions against the Philippines.
The sanctions, including a freeze on the hiring of Philippine workers, were lifted on Thursday after the government said Manila has met Taiwan’s four demands — a formal apology, punishment of those responsible for the shooting, compensation for the Hung family and bilateral fishery talks to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.
According to Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs, the end of 86-day hiring freeze will allow more than 3,000 Philippine workers to arrive in Taiwan in two weeks to take up jobs.
This group of workers had obtained job contracts in Taiwan before the hiring freeze was imposed on May 15. They will become the first group of Philippine workers to arrive, council officials said.
More than 10,000 Philippine workers were affected by the hiring freeze, according to the council’s estimates, adding that the freeze cost them an estimated NT$300 million (US$10.03 million) in lost income in terms of the minimum monthly wage of NT$19,047.
Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said a ministerial-level economic cooperation conference would take place in Manila in the second half of the year as scheduled.
The Taiwan External Trade Development Council also said it would soon resume preparations for opening a Taiwan Trade Center in Manila to promote bilateral trade and economic cooperation.