Claims made by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in its incident report on the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman contradicted Taiwan’s initial investigation results, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said yesterday.
Philippine media yesterday described the coast guard’s report of the May 9 shooting as “like a scene out of an action movie,” in which the Philippine vessel was “dodging two fishing boats that tried to sink the law enforcer’s ship as they engaged the ‘bad guys’ in a high seas chase.”
The Manila Bulletin said it obtained the three-page incident report from a coast guard insider, adding that the report “showed how the Taiwanese fishermen violently and dangerously tried to evade arrest after they were caught poaching at sea about 39 nautical miles [72.2km] off Balintang Island.”
“One of the Taiwanese vessels maneuvered to ram our starboard bow. This unit executed reverse [gear] to avoid a collision,” the Manila Bulletin article quote the coast guard as saying in the report.
The article quoted the report as claiming that “the Taiwanese fishermen had refused to stop in their tracks, while local sea authorities repeatedly fired warning shots into mid-air and honked their vessel’s horn at the foreigners.”
“[The coast guard] fired warning shots to alert the fishing vessel, until the fishing vessel stopped and one of the crew of the fishing vessel came outside,” the article quoted the report as saying.
It added that when “the MCS-3001 vessel of PCG-BFAR [Philippine Coast Guard - Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] was almost alongside one of the fishing boats named Guang Ta Hsin No. 28, the coast guard claimed that the engine of the Taiwanese vessel whirred to life, and the boat maneuvered backward before speeding forward and it almost collided with the government ship’s stern.”
“The patient Philippine authorities fired another round of warning shots, but the Taiwanese vessel refused to stop and engaged the PCG-BFAR vessel in a high-speed sea chase. As a result, the commanding officer of the MCS-3001 ordered to open fire at Guang Ta Hsin No. 28 to disable its engine, but accidentally killed a Taiwanese fisherman named Hung Shih-cheng [洪石成],” the article quoted the coast guard report as saying.
Chen, at an international press conference held in Taipei yesterday, called the shooting “an act of homicide” as he presented the investigation results of the incident.
Taiwanese prosecutors have completed an investigation into the accident after the fishing boat was towed back to Pingtung County on May 11.
“From the placing of the bullets, we can see that most shots were concentrated on the cabin where the four crew members hid. The perpetrators used a high-speed automatic weapon to fire on unarmed fishermen from Taiwan, so this is an act of homicide,” Chen said.
Chen said an initial interpretation of information from the boat’s voyage data recorder showed that the fishing boat had been operating inside the limits of legal fishing waters in the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), rather than in the Philippines’ territorial waters.
The Philippine government vessel disregarded the sovereignty right that the Republic of China enjoys in the overlapping EEZ between Taiwan and the Philippines, he said.
Rebuffing claims by the Philippine Coast Guard that the fishing boat tried to ram its vessel, Chen said that examination of the boat “found no sign or evidence of ramming.”
“In our investigation, we saw no signs of a collision, showing that before the incident took place, the Taiwanese boat did not ram the [coast guard] vessel which [reportedly] led to the shooting,” he said.
Chen said the fishing boat, riddled with 45 bullet holes, was fired upon with “very strong weapons,” presumably 7.62mm M14, M240 or M60 machine guns.
An autopsy on Hung showed that he was killed by bullets which penetrated his neck to his arteries, traveling to his spine and lungs, Chen said.
Chen accused Philippine Coast Guard personnel of failing to observe international law.