The government’s response to the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by a Philippine government ship and the actions it has taken against Manila have come “too late” and are “too weak,” politicians and academics said yesterday.
It took President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration 60 hours to call a National Security Council meeting after Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), 65, was shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard personnel on Thursday while working on a fishing boat in disputed waters about 164 nautical miles (304km) off the southern coast of Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.
Ma then issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Philippines that began yesterday at 12am to respond to four demands: issue an apology, provide compensation to the victim’s family, arrest those responsible for the shooting and launch bilateral fisheries talks.
The government’s response to such a brutal killing has been too slow, Lin said, adding that Taipei should seek Washington’s help in establishing a mechanism to resolve future international conflicts in the disputed waters.
Soochow University political science professor Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said that the council meeting should have been called earlier and said Ma should “apply pressure during the 72-hour span of the ultimatum, instead of just sitting around waiting for a response.”
Ma should combine “words with actions” during the period by issuing demands, expelling Manila’s representative to Taiwan, recalling the Taiwanese representative in the Philippines and leveraging Philippine migrant worker placements in Taiwan, Lo said.
While everyone would welcome a peaceful resolution, “some escalation of the crisis is necessary, including the military measures,” for gaining an upper hand in the conflict, Lo said.
If Ma could send navy vessels to patrol the waters around the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) during territorial disputes with Japan, which also claims the islands, “why doesn’t he do the same thing this time?” Lo asked.
However, Lo did not recommend involving Washington in the matter, saying that a better approach would be to “isolate the Philippines” by defining the incident as “a criminal case, rather than a diplomatic one” and “taking a bilateral, not multilateral, approach.”
The prospect of fisheries talks between Taiwan and the Philippines being held is questionable, since the incident “did not involve a territorial dispute as in the South China Sea,” Lo said.
David Huang (黃偉峰), an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of European and American Studies, said the 72-hour deadline was “perhaps too much” because the damaged fishing boat has already been returned to Taiwan, which facilitates the gathering of evidence.
In contrast to Lo, Huang said that Taiwan should quickly produce the evidence it needs to present its case and work with US and Japan to facilitate bilateral fisheries negotiations with the Philippines.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Sanchong District (三重), New Taipei City (新北市), DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) urged Manila to “stop making up stories” and “act like a civilized country.”
Su said he supported “strong measures” from the Ma administration to seek justice.