2:42 pm | Monday, May 27th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines-The Philippine government has agreed to show to Taiwanese prosecutors the video of the Philippine Coast Guard that recorded the shooting of a Taiwanese fishing boat that killed a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang channel.
“Everything that is with us will be offered to the Taiwanese investigators,” National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez told reporters Monday.
On its first day, Mendez said the investigators will conduct ballistics examination, then an inspection of the vessel.
“And then we will discuss what will happen on the third day,” Mendez said adding that part of the discussion will be the possible access to Coast Guard personnel involved in the incident.
The Taiwanese probers, meanwhile, said their activity will be based on reciprocity.
“What we offered to the Philippine team in Taiwan, they will offer the same to us,” the Taiwanese investigator said.
The eight-man team from the NBI tasked to conduct an investigation into the Philippine Coast Guard’s shooting of a Taiwanese fishing boat has arrived in Taiwan Monday morning.
Security was tight at the Taoyuan International Airport when the team of investigators arrived at past 10 a.m. on board Philippine Airlines flight PR896.
The NBI team will be meeting with officials from the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco), and the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice.
The NBI agents are set to inspect the Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin 28 by Wednesday.
Last May 9, fisherman Hung Shih-Cheng died after allegedly was shot by members of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Taiwan has also sent its investigating team to Manila to visit the coastguard vessel, inspect the guns used to fire on the vessel and review video footage.
A spokesman for the NBI confirmed the Taiwanese team had arrived but would not comment on what they were doing or how long they would stay.
The Philippines has claimed that the fishing boat intruded into its waters and that coastguards were forced to open fire when it tried to ram their vessel.
The Taiwanese authorities have released the boat’s voyage data record and insist that the ship was fishing within its exclusive economic zone when the shooting took place.
The zones claimed by the two sides overlap in some areas.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has termed the killing “cold-blooded murder” based on an initial inquiry report by Taiwan, which showed that the fishing ship was studded with more than 50 bullet holes and displayed no sign of having rammed the coastguard vessel.
President Benigno Aquino III has personally apologized for the incident but Taiwan has rejected his apology and introduced sanctions against the Philippines.
The measures include a ban on the hiring of new workers, recalling its envoy and staging a naval drill in waters off the northern Philippines.
Taipei has repeatedly pressed Manila to issue a formal government apology, to compensate the fisherman’s family and to apprehend the killer.
Philippine officials say the issue of a formal apology is complicated by the fact that Manila officially recognizes Beijing over Taipei.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Monday said she hopes that the parallel investigation conducted by the Philippines and Taiwan will repair the strained relations between Manila and Taipei.
“With the mutual or reciprocal visits of the Philippines and Taiwanese teams, it is expected that their respective separate investigations will be concluded soon and hopefully put closure to the factual issues surrounding the incident,” De Lima said in a statement.
“What is being demonstrated is the spirit of cooperation and openness between Philippines and Taiwanese authorities which can contribute to a significant degree, to the restoration of normalcy of PH-Taiwan relations,” she added. With a report from Agence France Presse