Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s administration has been careful to downplay the current diplomatic spat with Taiwan, describing its handling of the incident as “non-official” in nature.
Taipei has held the Philippine government responsible for the incident in which Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) died in waters disputed by the two countries in a shooting involving Philippine Coast Guard personnel onboard a vessel belonging to its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
However, Manila has tried to downplay the government’s role in the incident, with Aquino on Monday reiterating that Manila would handle the case in line with its “one China” policy.
In response to Taipei’s demand that Manila offer a formal apology, defined by Taipei as an apology by either the office of the Philippine president or the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Aquino said at the time that the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) — the Philippines’ representative office in Taiwan — is the lead agency in charge of the issue, not the department, because of the “one China” policy.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Philippine presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda emphasized the “non-official nature” of Manila’s handling of the case.
Lacierda said that MECO Chairman Amadeo Perez, who arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday and returned to the Philippines yesterday after being denied meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and with Hung’s family, was designated by Aquino as his “personal representative.”
Asked how the decision to send Perez to Taiwan was made, Lacierda said it was a “personal decision of the president,” not a decision by the government.
Lacierda said that Perez was tasked by Aquino to convey “his personal and the Filipino people’s apology” to Hung’s family and the people of Taiwan.
When Perez was in Taipei, he also repeatedly emphasized that he came to Taiwan in the capacity of Aquino’s personal representative.
Asked whether the apology he offered on behalf of Aquino was an apology offered by the Philippine government to the Taiwanese government, he said the apology was addressed to Hung’s family and the people of Taiwan.
During negotiations with Filipino officials on Tuesday, Taipei said that Manila’s response to its demands regarding the incident should be signed off by the office of the Philippine president or by the Department of Foreign Affairs, but the Filipinos rebuffed the request.