Taiwan foreign minister snubs PNoy's representative

by Ko Shu-ling and Dario Agnote, Kyodo

Posted at May 15 2013 05:51 PM | Updated as of May 16 2013 01:51 AM

TAIPEI/MANILA - Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin refused to meet with President Benigno Aquino’s personal representative after the country announced sanctions against the Philippines over the fatal shooting last week of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters.

Taiwan also vowed further sanctions if Manila's response to its demands for an official apology and compensation remains unsatisfactory.

Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao told reporters Lin declined to meet with Amadeo R. Perez Jr., who arrived in Taipei on Wednesday afternoon, because Perez was not sufficiently "authorized" to handle the matter.

Kao did not elaborate what she meant, but Lin said Wednesday morning he expected a spokesperson of the Philippine presidential office or a Cabinet official to hold a press conference Wednesday.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda described Perez as Philippine President Benigno Aquino's "personal representative" who was sent to Taipei to convey Aquino's "deep regret" over the fatal shooting.

Perez "will convey his and the Filipino people's deep regret and apology to the family of (victim) Hung Shi-cheng as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life," Lacierda said.

But Lacierda's "hope" the authorities in Taiwan would see Perez's visit as a "sincere gesture" has apparently not been met even though Lacierda had said, "We have time and again expressed our deep regret and apology to the family (of the victim)."

He said Perez is expected to meet fisherman Hung's family Thursday.

Lacierda also said, "Upon orders from (the president), the National Bureau of Investigation has already started the investigation and is committed to a thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious investigation of the incident. The NBI has given this case the highest priority."

And he reiterated Aquino's call for calm and not to involve Filipinos working in Taiwan.

Lacierda refused to comment on Taiwan's decision to freeze hiring of Filipino workers and recall its envoy in Manila.

Earlier Wednesday, Taiwan's Presidential Office Spokeswoman Li Jia-fei announced Taiwan would suspend the processing of applications by Filipinos to work in Taiwan, recall Taipei's de facto ambassador in Manila in the absence of diplomatic relations, and ask Manila's representative in Taipei to return home to assist in handling the case.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah said these measures come into force at midnight Wednesday.

Calling Manila's response to Taipei's demands for redress "perfunctory" and "unacceptable," Li said President Ma Ying-jeou was "strongly dissatisfied" with the way the Philippine government has handled the matter and feels it has shown "insufficient sincerity."

Jiang later told a press conference that eight more measures will be imposed after 6 p.m. if Manila's response remains "unsatisfactory."

Among those measures, he said, Taiwan would suspend high-level exchanges and interactions, economic exchanges and business activities, agricultural and fishery cooperation, technological research exchanges and cooperation, aviation talks and visa-free privileges for Philippine visitors, while it would also urge Taiwanese not to travel to the Philippines.

In addition, Taiwan's military and coast guard would also hold a joint exercise in the disputed waters where last Friday's fatal shooting occurred, some 170 nautical miles off the southern coast of Taiwan in an area where the exclusive economic zones claimed by Taipei and Manila overlap.

Last Saturday, President Ma issued a 72-hour ultimatum in which he demanded Manila apologize for the shooting, investigate it "properly" and punish those responsible, compensate the victim's family in a fair manner and start talks on a bilateral fishery agreement.

Taiwan also demanded the Philippines take measures to ensure a similar incident does not occur in the future.

An hour past the deadline Wednesday morning, Antonio Basilio, the Philippine's de facto ambassador to Taiwan, appeared at a joint press conference with Taiwan Foreign Minister Lin to express his "deep regret and apology" to the Taiwanese people and family of the dead fisherman.

Meanwhile, U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Stephen Young said he believes both sides have the ability to solve the issue on their own without mediation by the U.S.

"The United States has been a longtime ally of the Philippines and we've been friends with Taiwan for a long time as well. It's obviously in our interests and in the region's interests to have the two parties talk through the differences and deal with the aftermath of what I think was an unfortunate incident," he said.

(with reporting by Matthew Lee in Hong Kong)