By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:04 pm | Monday, May 27th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines -The Philippine Coast Guard is “open” to allowing visiting Taiwanese investigators to inspect the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel involved in the May 9 incident in the Balintang Channel where a Taiwanese fisherman was reportedly shot dead by PCG personnel, the PCG commandant said Monday.
Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, however, said they would only do so with the permission of the National Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into the case.
He told reporters that the 17 PCG crew of the BFAR monitoring control and surveillance ship (MCS 3001) “will be made available anytime” to the Taiwanese investigation team.
“The PCG [crewmen] are under custodial investigation [by the command’s Internal Affairs Office]. Anytime they’re called, andyan lang sila (they are just around),” he said.
The two other crew members of the MCS 3001 are personnel of BFAR, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture.
Commander Armand Balilo, the Coast Guard spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer their Internal Affairs Office was “almost done” with its own investigation of the incident.
“It is investigating what really transpired during the incident. However, Internal Affairs’ findings will not be made public,” said Balilo, also chief of the PCG Public Affairs Office.
Earlier, the Coast Guard said the unnamed PCG personnel aboard BFAR ship first fired warning shots at the Taiwanese boat after it made a hostile maneuver, and later shot directly at the fleeing vessel to disable its engine.
Isorena also said, “if I’m asked to face the Taiwanese investigators, I don’t see any problem,” he said, noting “the PCG has good relations with the Taiwanese Coast Guard.”
But the PCG “has yet to be notified by the NBI about the Taiwanese group’s visit” to the Coast Guard headquarters in Manila.
Interviewed after the 15th anniversary rites of the PCG’s Marine Environmental Protection Command at Parola Compound in Binondo, Manila, Isorena said they were “fully cooperating with the NBI” in its investigation of the case.
“We have provided all the required materials, including a video of the incident,” he disclosed but declined to provide details about the video.
At the same time, Isorena said they would review shortly the PCG-BFAR memorandum of agreement on their joint operations.
“We’ll try to make a more definite policy” covering the two agencies’ operations, he also said.
He clarified that “our operations are under the control and supervision of BFAR. But the vessels are manned mostly by Coast Guard personnel.”
Meanwhile, Balilo dismissed as “speculations” the reported preliminary NBI findings in its inquiry into the death of suspected Taiwanese poacher Hung Shih-cheng.
He said it was premature to make conclusions about the case.
“We’re waiting for the findings of the NBI probe. We will respect whatever findings resulting from that investigation. But it won’t prevent us from explaining or clarifying certain issues,” he said, stressing the PCG “has been very cooperative with the NBI.”