20130512 Death on the High Seas: Ma issues ultimatum over fisherman’s death
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Death on the High Seas: Ma issues ultimatum over fisherman’s death

72 HOURS: The government will freeze Filipino workers’ applications and recall its envoy if Manila fails to respond to Taiwan’s demand for a formal apology and arrest of the suspect in a fisherman’s death

By Mo Yan-chih / Staff reporter

Coast guards free “hostages” from a simulated hijacked vessel during a Coast Guard Administration drill in Taichung Port yesterday aimed at demonstrating the coast guard’s ability to protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain security and enforce the law.
Photo: CNA

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday gave the Philippines 72 hours to arrest those responsible for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman, issue a formal apology and compensate the victim’s family.

If Manila failed to respond to these demands within 72 hours, the government will freeze Philippine worker applications, recall the Republic of China (ROC) representative in Manila and ask the Philippine representative to return to Manila to help in the investigation, Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) told a news conference last night following a national security meeting presided over by Ma.

The 72-hour deadline started from "12am on May 12," Lee said.

The meeting, attended by top officials including Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), lasted about two hours from 7pm to 9pm in the Presidential Office.

The incident took place on Thursday, when a Philippine Coast Guard vessel opened fire on the Pingtung-based fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 in waters 164 nautical miles (304km) southeast of Taiwan’s southernmost tip, killing 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).

The boat was fishing in waters in which the exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines overlap.

“The Philippine government’s attitude is outrageous and unacceptable,” Ma said earlier yesterday while inspecting a coastguard drill at Taichung Harbor.

He also instructed the Coast Guard Administration to dispatch ships to the exclusive economic zone and increase patrols over territorial waters to protect Taiwanese fishermen.

“The Philippines shot at an unarmed fishing boat. This violates international safety regulations. Firing 40 to 50 shots at the boat is brutal and cold-blooded,” the president said.

The Ma administration has come under pressure from the public and lawmakers across party lines to take a tougher stand on the incident.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday also urged the Ma administration to initiate action against Manila, such as suspending all exchanges with the Philippines and banning the recruitment of Filipino workers.

He also proposed sending naval ships and extending their patrol scope beyond the exclusive economic zone to better protect Taiwanese fishermen.

“Only by doing this can we better protect our fishermen’s rights and defend our national dignity. We should take a hardline approach in handling this incident,” he said at Taipei City Hall.

Hau added that the Taipei City Government would retract its invitation to the Philippines to attend the Dragon Boat Festival next month.

“The Taipei City Government stands behind Taiwanese fishermen. Unless the Philippine government brings the killers to justice and compensates [the victim’s family], we will stop inviting the [Philippines’] dragon boat team to this year’s festival,” he said.

Taipei will also suspend all exchanges with Manila and Quezon City — both sister cities of Taipei — as well as the city government’s plan to donate two ambulances to the Philippines.

The Philippines has sent dragon boat teams to compete in the city’s annual dragon boat race for the past two years. Taipei City’s Department of Sports said it would cancel this year’s invitation tomorrow.

New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) also condemned the shooting and said that the city would suspend exchanges with Manila until the Philippine government offers an apology, compensate the victim’s family and apprehends the perpetrators.

A storm of indignation also broke out among Taiwanese netizens, with several calling for a boycott on travel to the Philippines, or action to paralyze Philippine government Web sites that are not related to medicine.

Additional reporting by Ho Yu-hua and staff writer

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