Government to maintain stance in Philippines spat

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 - Page 3

The government will maintain its stance in a dispute with the Philippines over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in early May, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said yesterday.

“We hope to settle the dispute appropriately and our top concern is the pursuit of justice for the bereaved family of the dead fisherman,” Kao said.

The government will not heedlessly make compromises in seeking solutions to the row, she said.

Kao’s remarks came amid media reports that the results of investigations into the fisherman’s death would be released in a month’s time.

Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) was killed aboard the fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 on May 9, when a Philippine patrol vessel opened fire on the boat in waters south of Taiwan, in an overlapping exclusive economic zone of the two countries.

Both Taiwan and the Philippines have completed separate investigative reports on the incident, but the reports have not yet been released, nearly three months after the attack.

The Philippine report, compiled by the country’s National Bureau of Investigation, has been sent to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and is awaiting his approval, according to previous reports from Manila.

Kao said the ministry has been pushing via diplomatic channels for the Philippines to respond to Taiwan’s four demands — an apology, compensation for the family of the victim, prosecution of the persons involved in the shooting, and talks to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Regarding compensation, lawyers on both sides are still in negotiations, Kao said.

In accordance with a bilateral judicial assistance agreement, Taiwan and the Philippines are expected to release their respective investigative reports simultaneously.

Kao said the Ministry of Justice will brief the public on further developments at an appropriate time.

She stressed that the Taiwanese government’s main goals in dealing with the case are to seek justice for the victim’s family, protect the rights and interests of local fishermen, and uphold national dignity.

The government, therefore, is unlikely to compromise on the issue, Kao said.

Taiwan has imposed sanctions on the Philippines over the incident, including a freeze on the hiring of Philippine workers, issuance of a “red” travel advisory, suspension of official bilateral cooperation, and revocation of visa-free privileges for Philippine passport holders with US, Schengen or Japanese visas.

Taipei has said that lifting of the sanctions will be dependent on compliance with its four demands.

Meanwhile, a local business daily reported yesterday that Taiwan’s technology companies have begun to feel the pinch of the freeze on hiring Philippine workers.

High-tech companies have been hardest hit, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) said, quoting Shen Kuo-jung (沈國榮), vice chairman of the Allied Association for Science Park Industries.

At present, more than 9,000 foreign workers are employed at companies in Taiwan’s three science parks, the report said, adding that 90 percent of the 4,500 foreign workers at the Hsinchu Science Park are Philippine citizens.

Shen said local high-tech companies like to hire Philippine workers because they tend to be better educated and more fluent in English, according to the report.

“It’s easier for Filipinos to communicate with foreign technicians at our high-tech companies because of their English proficiency,” Shen said.

Local high-tech companies, nonetheless, will not pressure the government to soften its stance on the Kuang Ta Hsing issue, Shen said, adding that he hopes the government will consider opening the door to workers from Myanmar and Cambodia.

While the number of foreign workers in Taiwan had surged to a new high of 463,000 at the end of last month, the number of Filipinos employed in the manufacturing sector had declined to 64,000 from a high of about 66,000 at the end of May, the EDN report said, citing Council of Labor Affairs data.