ROC releases report on fishing boat case

The official ROC government report on the killing of a Taiwan fisherman during an attack on his fishing boat by a Philippine government vessel was released Aug. 7 in Taipei City.

“Our findings are largely in accord with those arrived at by the Philippines and we support their decision to try the perpetrators for homicide,” Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang said.

“The ROC respects the Philippine judicial process and calls on the Philippine judicial bodies to prosecute and sentence the perpetrators in this case to the full extent of the law, based on the facts and evidence presented in this report, thus seeing justice done.”

Chen made the remarks during a news conference presided over by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ting Joseph Shih at MOFA headquarters.

The release of the Ministry of Justice report follows a three-month investigation of the May 9 fatal shooting of Hung Shih Cheng during an attack by a Philippine government vessel on ROC-registered Guang Da Xing No. 28 in overlapping exclusive economic zones between the two countries.

It was concluded in the report that the crew of the Philippine government vessel fired a .30-caliber machine gun and various automatic weapons at the unarmed fishing boat in violation of the Philippine Coast Guard Rules of Engagement in the Conduct of Maritime Law Enforcement Operations. In addition, there was no evidence of collision between Guang Da Xing No. 28 and the Philippine government vessel.

According to Chen, Manila released its investigation report earlier in the day, recommending charges of homicide against personnel involved in the incident. If found guilty, the perpetrators face imprisonment from 12 to 20 years, Chen said, adding that Pingtung District Prosecutors Office in southern Taiwan has also indicted the Philippine personnel on the same charges.

Shih said the Philippine government is in talks with the victim’s family on compensation, and Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman Amadeo Perez is scheduled to visit the country soon to offer an official apology.

“Over the past three months, the ROC government has worked to seek justice for the victim’s family, fight for their rights and maintain national dignity,” Shih said.

“The ROC is a country of peace and a responsible stakeholder in the international community. The MOFA is pleased to see concrete efforts by the Philippines aimed at peacefully resolving the incident and mending bilateral relations.”

According to Shih, the ministry will recommend the Cabinet lifts the 11 sanctions imposed on the Philippines so as to restore bilateral friendly and cooperative relations.

Separately, in light of the Guang Da Xing No. 28 incident, the ROC Legislature passed amendments to the Fisheries Act in an extraordinary session Aug. 6. These greenlight fishermen to engage the services of armed security personnel when operating in areas at risk of piracy or illegal use of force such as the Gulf of Aden and Strait of Malacca.

Under the revisions, boat owners must apply to the Fisheries Agency for permission before hiring armed guards. If such personnel are foreign nationals employed overseas, they can only board the contracting vessel and commence duties outside ROC territory. Failure to do so will result in a fine of NT$60,000 (US$2,000) to NT$300,000.

Due to strict control on weapons, hiring ROC armed security guards will be possible only after the Ministry of the Interior revises the Guns, Ammunition and Knives Control Act.

The Legislature also approved a resolution making this amendment applicable to those fishing boats operating within 200 nautical miles of the ROC exclusive economic zones facing the Philippines and Vietnam. The Council of Agriculture, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior will also review related regulations in this regard. (RC-JSM)


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