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Philippine charges over fisherman's death recognized by Taiwan
Central News Agency
2014-03-18 10:55 PM
Taipei, March 18 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that it recognizes a decision by the Philippine Department of Justice to file homicide charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard officers over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman last year. The decision upholds justice, Foreign Minister David Lin said at a news conference called after the Philippine Justice Department released a resolution on the incident that occurred May 9, 2013. The department announced earlier in the day that it will file charges against the eight Coast Guard officers involved, two of whom will also face charges of obstruction of justice for an alleged attempt to submit a falsified gunner report related to the shooting. The Philippine Coast Guard officers sprayed bullets at Taiwanese fishing boat the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 when the boat was operating in waters where the two countries' exclusive economic zones overlap. It resulted in the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, who was aboard the fishing boat. Lin said the filing of the homicide charges means that the Philippine government has met the four demands set by Taiwan in the handling of the incident. Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Justice said it was pleased to see justice served. In making the decision to file the charges, Philippine prosecutors also referred to much of the evidence collected by prosecutors in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, who were responsible for the Taiwanese side of the investigation into the incident, said a Justice Ministry official. The ministry also urged that severe sentences be given to the coast guard officers. Following the incident last year, Taiwan insisted that Manila formally apologize for the shooting, punish those responsible, compensate the victim's family and hold bilateral fishery talks to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future. Bilateral ties were stalemated following the incident, with Taipei imposing a series of sanctions against Manila. But relations thawed when Manila began to respond positively to Taiwan's four demands. On Aug. 7, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) issued a report on the incident in which it recommended that the eight coast guard officers be indicted on homicide charges. A day later, Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), visited the victim's family in Pingtung County to deliver a letter of apology on behalf of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. The Philippine government also reached an agreement with the family on a compensation package. MECO is the Philippine institution responsible for handling relations with Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. Taiwan lifted its sanctions Aug. 8. Over the past several months, Taiwan and the Philippines have also held two fishery meetings and have reached consensus on several issues, including no use of force or violence when patrolling fishing grounds, the establishment of a mechanism to inform each other in the event of fishery incidents and the release of detained fishermen as soon as possible. Both sides are expected to sign an agreement that includes the consensus soon, Lin said. The government will continue to strengthen bilateral fishery cooperation with the Philippines and make efforts to ensure the rights of Taiwanese fishermen, Lin added. Hung's daughter Hung Tsu-chien, who has been outspoken in her demands for justice for her father, also expressed gratitude for the Taiwan government's assistance in the handling of the incident and said that the news of the charges was a comfort for her family. (By Claudia Liu, Page Tsai, Chen Yi-wei, Kuo Chih-hsuan and Elaine Hou)
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