Better PH-Taiwan relations after shooting incident

by Janvic Mateo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 16 2014 01:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2014 09:10 PM

TAIPEI – A Taiwanese scholar has noted positive developments in the relationship of the Philippines and Taiwan almost a year after the shooting incident that left a Taiwanese fisherman dead.

Anne Hsiao, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei’s National Chengchi University, said the shooting incident last May 9, 2013 involving elements of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) was a case of excessive use of force but it also gave the two countries an chance to fix the problems.

“It brings the whole long-term and unresolved fishery dispute up to the surface, but I think in the end it also gave the opportunity for the two authorities to fix the two problems,” Hsiao told a group of international reporters here Friday.

“The two sides have conducted several working groups which they have agreed on several principles, one of which was that in the future, both sides will refrain from use of excessive force on the enforcement of their respective claims to waters,” she added.

Hsiao, whose research includes international law and cross-strait relations, also noted that the Taiwanese government has undertaken efforts to educate fishermen to steer away from disputed waters. “The two sides have also committed to setting-up hotlines, communication channels to have a window for communication to avoid any problems.”

In May 9, 17 PCG members and three personnel from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources spotted two Taiwanese fishing vessels in Philippine waters. One of the vessels, identified as Guang Da Xing No. 28, was carrying four Taiwanese fishermen including victim Hong Shi-Cheng.

Reports said the PCG personnel tried to stop the Taiwanese vessel, fired warning shots and tried to shoot the engine during a chase. But a bullet fatally hit Hong in the neck.

The incident strained relations between the Philippines and Taiwan, with the Taiwanese government imposing a ban on the hiring of Filipino workers in August. It was lifted two days later.

The National Bureau of Investigation recommended the filing homicide charges against eight PCG personnel.

Hsiao noted that the incident happened in overlapping exclusive economic zones of the Philippines and Taiwan, where fishermen from both countries have the right to fish.

“There was very comprehensive investigation undertaken by both authorities showing that it was quite clear that the use of force by coast guard in the Philippines was excessive,” she said. “So far, the incident has in the end come to more or less accessible results at the moment.”