Taiwan accused yesterday President Aquino of having flip-flopped on a joint investigation into the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine coastguards, an incident which has ignited a major diplomatic dispute.
A team of Taiwanese investigators returned to the island Saturday, accusing the Philippine government of failing to honor its agreement to conduct a joint probe and after issuing a report that alleged fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was murdered by the law enforcers.
“The decision to send the investigators to Manila came only after the Philippine government had agreed to let us to do so,” deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang told reporters.
He said the country’s de facto ambassador Antonio Basilio had agreed to such a move in Taipei on Wednesday, but Basilio’s country had now wavered on the proposal.
Chen said a joint inquiry was the only way to establish the truth about the May 9 fatal shooting of Hung, a 65-year-old crewman on the fishing boat.
“While our investigators can provide them with evidence they have collected, Filipino investigators can come to Taiwan to gather evidence, including talking to the other witnesses on board the fishing boat at the time of the shooting,” the deputy minister said.
The Coast Guard said the fishing vessel intruded into Philippine waters and tried to ram its own patrol boat.
Chen denied any intrusion, citing a voyage data recorder on the fishing boat.
Taiwan rejected Manila’s apology and slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, recalling its own envoy and staging a drill in waters off the northern Philippines.
It is angry at the government’s description of the death as “unintended”. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has termed the killing “cold-blooded murder”, referring to more than 50 bullet holes in the fishing boat.
Amadeo Perez, a personal envoy from Aquino was forced to return home Thursday after Taipei rejected the apology he conveyed from the president.
Taipei has repeatedly pressed Manila to issue a formal government apology, to compensate the fisherman’s family and to apprehend the killer.
Ma instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to continue negotiating with the Philippines for a joint investigation, a Taipeh Times report said.
“President Ma believes that the incident requires both sides to cooperate with each other on the investigation pragmatically, and only by doing so can the truth be revealed,” the publication quoted Presidential Office spokesman Lee Chia-fei as saying after the conclusion of a meeting on national security that Ma had attended.
A Taiwanese investigative team returned from Manila yesterday after making little headway in its probe. The delegation — consisting of prosecutors and officials from the justice and foreign ministries, and Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency — had arrived in Manila on Thursday.
They tried to work with Philippine government officials to set up a joint investigation into the incident, but failed to reach a consensus.
After the Taiwanese team returned yesterday without having made any progress, Ma called for the continuation of talks between the two nations, saying that the incident was an opportunity for Taiwan and the Philippines to implement the mutual legal assistance agreement they signed earlier this year.
Lee said that Ma had asked the foreign and justice ministries to seek a consensus with Manila based on the principle of reciprocity.
She stressed that the negotiations had not failed and said the government’s investigation team would continue its efforts to find the truth when the Philippines is “ready.”
Yesterday’s national security meeting was the third one held since last week.
Earlier yesterday, at a news conference at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport held shortly after the delegation’s return, Chen Wen-chi, head of the Ministry of Justice’s Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs, said the delegation had made some progress on initiating a judicial investigation with the Philippine Department of Justice, but that further negotiations were needed, according to Taipeh Times.
In addition, citing the navigational record of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, Chen said that the incident had occurred while the boat was in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone and that it had not entered the Philippines’ territorial waters.
Taiwanese investigators’ findings contradict the Philippines’ claims that the shots were fired in self-defense after the Taiwanese boat tried to ram it, she added.
The Philippine government is waiting for tempers in Taiwan to cool before settling the dispute over the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman, the head of an office in charge of relations yesterday said.
Issues like Manila’s “One-China” policy and comments by Taiwanese investigators branding the incident as murder have complicated the situation, said Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco).
“We are waiting for the right time because I was told by the secretary-general for Asian affairs, we should wait for the temperature in Taiwan to cool,” Perez said in an interview over dzMM radio.
“The Taiwanese are highly emotional and... the media in Taiwan (are) heating things up so tempers are running high.”
Anger has grown in Taiwan after a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead last May 9 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Taiwan has imposed sanctions on the Philippines, banning the entry of any more workers, recalling its de facto envoy and holding a military exercise in waters near Batanes in extreme Northern Luzon last week.
The Coast Guard said the fishing vessel had intruded into Philippine waters and tried to ram its own patrol boat.
A Taiwan investigative team that visited the country last week described the shooting as “murder,” but Perez said the Taiwanese had not coordinated with local authorities before making the accusation.
Perez, whose office is in charge of relations in the absence of diplomatic ties, said lines of communication between his agency and the Taiwanese foreign ministry were still active despite the controversy.
He said the Department of Justice is still studying a request for a joint investigation when the Taiwanese made their allegations this weekend.
The investigators’ remarks “will further inflame the people of Taiwan,” he warned.
Perez also said Taiwan wanted President Aquino personally to write a letter of apology, but this could be considered a violation of the country’s one-China policy — recognizing Beijing rather than Taipei as the government of China.
Last week Aquino sent Perez to Taiwan to convey his apologies but Taiwan rejected the message.
Perez also thanked Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou for his promise to protect the 87,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan after a Filipino worker there was attacked with a baseball bat amid public fury.
Malacañang, for its part, has formed a team from the Meco in Taipei to ensure protection for Filipino workers in Taiwan after reports of harassment and attacks by Taiwanese angry over the death of one of their fishermen by PCG last week.
The Palace also asked them to “limit going out” amid the backlash over the Taiwanese fisherman’s death in Philippine waters.
“According to Mr. (Antonio) Basilio, they have issued an advisory to our countrymen to limit their going out… They should avoid doing the unnecessary things, in other words, to keep within their workplace and their homes,” deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said over government-run radio.
Basilio is the resident representative of the Meco in Taiwan.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also urged the government of Taiwan to protect Filipino workers on the island.
“We heard and we read in the papers that they have been hit with bats and four have been hospitalized,” Binay said. “We are appealing to the Taiwanese people to spare our overseas Filipino workers from conflict.”
Moreover, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) also urged Taiwan to protect Filipino workers on the island, whom the Hong Kong-based group described as “innocent.”
Eni Lestari, the Indonesian chief of IMA, also called on Taiwan and the Philippines to resolve diplomatically the conflict that arose from the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-chen by Philippine coast guards in waters off Balintang Island in northern Philippines on May 9.
Lestari added IMA had received reports of harassment and discrimination against Filipinos in Taiwan.
“This should stop. No physical attack or any act of racist discrimination should be done or condoned,” she said. “The Filipino migrants in Taiwan do not only (work for their families back home and contribute to the Philippine economy), but also contribute to the economy of Taiwan and attend to the needs of the families they work for in Taiwan.”
Meanwhile, the PCG has reiterated its stance in the shooting of a Taiwanese fishing boat off Balintang Channel in Batanes.
Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, PCG commandant, yesterday said the PCG is sticking to its earlier statement and will not issue new statements regarding the matter even after the Taiwanenes government declared the May 9 shooting incident as murder.
“We have given initial statement during the presscon, that is our statement. We don’t have new one,” said Isorena, referring to the joint press conference held by the PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) the morning after the shooting incident.
During the press conference, Isorena said elements of the PCG fired warning shots at the Taiwanese fishing boat after it attempted to ram BFAR maritime surveillance ship 3001 (MCS-3001) when PCG personnel tried to board the foreign vessel.
The PCG said the incident happened about 43 nautical miles off Balintang Channel, well within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.
Isorena said PCG personnel fired at the foreign vessels machinery portion to disable the ship. But the Philippine authorities sighted two more ships in the area, prompting MCS-3001 to withdraw and return to port.
At the same time, Isorena cited the ongoing investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the shooting incident that killed Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-Chen.
“Whatever was the statement during the presscon, that is our statement. It’s now up to Malacañang to give presscon, statement. It is already under the investigation of NBI, so we do not want to comment on the matter anymore,” he said.
Isorena added the NBI is now the “official investigator” of the case.
He, however, stressed the PCG will still proceed with its own investigation of the incident to establish what really transpired in Balintang Channel.
“That is for our own consumption…that is not official. The NBI is conducting the investigation…that is only for us so that we will also know what really happened,” Isorena said.
Paul Atienza, Mario J. Mallari, Jason Faustino, PNA and AFP
Monday, 20 May 2013 08:00 Published in Nation
One hundred fifteen stranded women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Amman, Jordan yesterday renewed their plea to the government to attend on their repatriation, according to Filipino migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME).
On April 22, around 30 of the 115 stranded OFWs, who are supposed to provisionally stay at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC), run and manage by the Philippine Embassy in Amman, Jordan, went out of the FWRC and staged a picket in front of the Philippine Overseas Labor office and OWWA building (POLO-OWWA) to press RP embassy and labor officials of their long-awaited repatriation.
“Most of the stranded women OFWs have been staying at FWRC in Amman, Jordan since 2010. Their supposed temporary stay at FWRC seems have become permanent amid repeated plea for their repatriation,” said Migrante vice chairman John Leonard Monterona, also regional coordinator of Migrante International in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Monterona said majority of the 115 stranded women OFWs were victim of human trafficking as confirmed by stranded OFWs during recent exchanges with Monterona.
“Unfortunately after working for several weeks and months, they fall prey to their respective employers’ abuses and maltreatment. Others have not been paid of their salaries for months, while some were falsely charged of stealing and illicit relationship by their employers prompting them to run away from their sponsor-employer,” Monterona revealed.
Monterona cited the case of “Marimar” (not her real name), 37, from Laguna. She falls prey to illegal recruiter and was deployed on Jan. 28, 2010 to Amman, Jordan to work as a household service worker. She claimed that she was sexually harassed by her employer after two months working for the latter prompting her to run away and sought assistance and refuge to Philippine Embassy and labor officials in Amman.
Monterona, citing the stranded women OFWs, said since they run away from their employers and many have no passport as it is usually confiscated by their employer, the RP Embassy issued travel documents.
“The problem is that Jordan immigration authorities didn’t honor the travel documents issued by the RP Embassy to the stranded OFWs to get out-passes and eventually leave Jordan,” Monterona revealed.
The stranded OFWs were told to report to Jordan immigration office for “interview” on a schedule basis, but this was stop on April 25, 2013 by the Jordan immigration authorities themselves.
“In such case, the RP Embassy and labor officials in Jordan should lobby to the Jordan immigration authorities the acceptance of issued travel documents to the 115 stranded OFWs to obtain out-passes,” Monterona suggested.
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