MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Initial findings made by Taiwanese agencies on the incident that led to the death of a fisherman near Balintang Island in Batanes last May 9 support the initial report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on where the clash happened, according to documents uploaded on the Internet by the Taiwanese government.
One Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (CGA) document, "f1368153033684.pdf", shows a map where the incident took place between Taiwanese fishermen and the Philippine Coast Guard-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (PCG-BFAR).
The shooting incident occurred in one of the coordinates on the map, 19°58 N 122°58 E.
It is inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and waters set by international treaty limits.
The location is 1.8 nautical miles south outside Taiwan's control border at 20 degrees north latitude, according to the CGA document.
Another coordinate, 19°50 N 123°24 E, is also within the Philippine jurisdiction. The location, 10 nautical miles outside the Taiwan control border, is where the Taiwanese fishermen operated.
A third location (20°07 N 123°01 E) where the fishermen called for help from Taiwanese authories is 5 nautical miles within waters that Taiwan claims.
According to an initial PCG report, its personnel tried to board several Taiwanese vessels after detecting them in Philippine waters.
Another Taiwanese government document, "351516203472.pdf" that was uploaded on its Ministry of Justice website, shows trajectories of bullets that hit the fisherman's boat, the "Guang Da Xing 28."
It showed 59 bullet trajectories hitting the boat, as earlier stated by the Taiwanese government.
Most were focused on the boat's bow (front) and stern section (rear) and one bullet trajectory, with number "10" highlighted.
The PCG said it fired a warning shot when one of the foreign vessels was about to ram a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel.
"Meron silang nadetect na apat na foreign fishing vessels. In an effort to apprehend or magbo-board po sila… Nung sinusubukan pong to board… one of the vessels, ni-ram po nung isa ang ating, the BFAR vessel which is being manned by the Coast Guard. So nag-fire po ng warning shot, hindi pa din daw po tumigil 'yung mga vessels in an attempt to continuously ram the BFAR vessel," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said last May 10, citing the initial PCG report on the incident.
She said the Coast Guard then took defensive action, firing on the ship's engine area to disable it.
"Nag-fire daw po sila ng isa pang shot doon sa machinery portion ng ship," Valte said.
"It was an aggressive act. The ramming of the boat into our vessel was certainly an aggressive act. So the PCG responded accordingly. Nag-warning shot sila, hindi po tumigil. They took the other necessary action and I understand eventually disengaged after that," she added.
The Taiwan government documents are currently innacessible but can be viewed through their cached versions via internet archive site web.archive.org.
Meantime, Taipei is insisting that the death of fisherman Hong Shi-cheng is "cold-blooded murder" and denied that the boat tried to ram a BFAR vessel.
Taiwan is also claiming that Philippine Coast Guard vessel "sailed away without offering assistance to the stricken boat, in violation of international law and a humanitarian duty."
"No claim of self-defense can justifiably be made by the Philippines," Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said.
"The Philippine claim that the incident occurred in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is unfounded. The incident occurred in the two countries’ overlapping EEZs," it also claimed.
Taiwan, however, on Tuesday released a new satellite record of the alleged route of the fishing boat.
Taipei flatly denied that the boat intruded into Philippine waters.
Taiwan's Fisheries Agency said the voyage data recorder from the fishing boat showed it was not in Philippine waters when it came under fire on May 9.
"The satellite records indicated that the Guang Ta Hsin 28 had been fishing within Taiwan's exclusive economic zone throughout," the agency's deputy chief Tsay Tzu-yaw told AFP.
The satellite record showed that the ship was positioned at 122 degrees and 55 minutes east and 19 degrees and 59 minutes north when it was attacked at 10:12 am, according to the fisheries agency.
However, a check on a maritime boundaries geodatabase online showed that the latest coordinate given by Taiwan's Fisheries Agency is even closer to Philippine land - and still within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
The Taiwan Coast Guard map also said the shooting incident happened at 9:45 a.m., which is earlier than the time given by its Fisheries Agency.
For decades, Taiwan set its "temporary enforcement line" at 20 degrees north latitude. The locations of the Taiwanese Coast Guard and Fisheries Agency versions on where the shooting took place are outside its enforcement area of control.
The island, which is considered by mainland China as a rebel province, has not also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which prescribes exclusive economic zones, over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources.
Local political play?
Taipei-based journalist J. Michael Cole, who reports on military issues in Northeast Asia and in the Taiwan Strait, believes that Taiwan's hardline stance can be blamed on local politicians' pressure on the unpopular President Ma Ying-jeou.
"In order to appease various domestic constituencies — including some outspoken members of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party — that were calling for a more muscular response to the incident, Ma ordered naval exercises near the waters where the Kuang Ta Hsing had come under fire," Cole said in an article published Tuesday by The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine in the Asia-Pacific region.
Cole, a former intelligence officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said Taipei should have accepted the Philippine apology and efforts to resolve the issue.
"Taipei allowed itself to be carried away by the domestic indignation," he said. "Given Ma's low popularity ratings, he would understandably seek to ride the wave of nationalism that, almost spontaneously, had taken over the whole of Taiwan."
Cole said Taiwan's mishandling of the crisis is the result of "local legislators’ political ambitions in fishermen’s constituencies, as well as by opposition parties’ efforts to criticize Ma no matter what he does, especially at a time when he is vulnerable."
"A lack of worldliness, of understanding Taiwan's position within the international community, and of how its actions will be interpreted abroad, better explain what happened," he added. - with a report from Agence France-Presse