20130515 Midnight deadline passes, MOFA says more ‘clarity’ needed from Manila
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Midnight deadline passes, MOFA says more ‘clarity’ needed from Manila

MULTI-FRONT EFFORT: Amid diplomatic efforts to resolve a crisis caused by the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman, the navy was preparing to hold sea drills tomorrow and Pingtung investigators are ready to go to the Philippines

By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff reporter

Dozens of New Party members gather in front of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei yesterday to protest the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by personnel aboard a Philippine Coast Guard vessel on Thursday last week. The New Party has urged the government to seek China’s help in protecting Taiwanese fishermen.
Photo: CNA

One hour after the 72-hour deadline set by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for Manila to answer four demands regarding the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippines Coast Guard personnel last week, a press conference was held in Taipei with Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) terming the Philippines' response “positive,” but needing more “clarity.”

Lin held the press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Manila Economic and Culture Office (MECO) Managing Director Antonio Basilio, who had brought messages for Lin after a 36-hour trip to Manila to discuss the situation with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

A half-hour meeting between Lin and Basilio had been scheduled for 8pm last night at the ministry, with a joint press conference scheduled at 8:30pm. Those times came and went and despite the later promise of a pre-midnight press conference by the ministry, negotiations went beyond the 12am deadline, with a press conference eventually being held at 1am today.

The diplomatic row was triggered by the death of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), on Thursday last week aboard the Taiwanese fishing boat Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, during a confrontation with a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources patrol boat in waters in which the exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and the Philippines overlap.

Ma on Saturday demanded that Manila formally apologize to Taiwan, compensate Huang’s family, uncover the truth behind the incident and begin talks with Taiwan over a fisheries agreement before midnight yesterday or face three punitive measures: a freeze on visa applications, a recall of the Taiwanese representative to the Philippines and Basilio’s expulsion. The countdown began at 12am on Sunday.

In a letter to Lin that he delivered yesterday, Basilio wrote that MECO Chairman Amadeo Perez, who will visit Taiwan today, will “convey the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology to the family of Mr. Hung as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate loss of life.”

Ma had demanded a government-to-government apology and Lin said the ministry needed to review whether an apology by Perez would meet expectations.

Regarding the demand that the Philippines “compensate” Hung’s family, Basilio said Perez would provide “financial help” to the family. He did not use the term “compensation.”

Lin said the foreign ministry also needed Basilio to confirm that he has the full authorization of the Philippine government.

He said Basilio had promised him that Philippine presidential spokesperson would hold a press conference this morning to confirm that Basilio was fully authorized.

Basilio had offered a public apology to Hung’s family on Friday last week and then visited the family on Saturday, when he apologized again, but that did little to quell nationwide anger over Hung’s death.

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said the navy was ready to carry out a military exercise in waters south of Taiwan tomorrow with Kidd-class destroyers and Chengkung-class frigates to show Taiwan’s determination to protect its fishermen.

The exercise, to be conducted jointly with the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), was one of the steps announced by the government in response to Hung’s death.

However, the defense ministry said it would not make a final decision until a determination on whether Manila’s response was acceptable.

Defense ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said the ministry “has many action plans up its sleeve,” and it would act in line with the guidelines of the government.

In other developments, Pingtung District Prosecutors’ Office head Tsai Jung-lung (蔡榮龍) said officials have finished gathering evidence in Taiwan about Hung’s death and were ready to head to the Philippines at any time to conduct further investigations.

He said the government has a list of officials who will be sent to the Philippines, pending Manila’s approval.

The investigators plan to focus on the identity of the people who fired the shots, their motivation, the guns and bullets they used, and the vessel they were on, Tsai said.

Additional reporting by Rich Chang and CNA

This story has been updated since first published.

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