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Taiwan Considers Action Against Philippines On Killing Of Tuna Fisherman

President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday he did not rule out taking sanctions against the Philippines over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine maritime agents.

Hung Shih-cheng, a 65-year-old fisherman from Pingtung County, died after his tuna vessel was shot at with machine guns from a Philippine government vessel in overlapping exclusive economic zones about 164 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan’s southernmost tip.

The Taiwanese ship, the Kuang Ta Hsing No.28, returned home Saturday morning. The vessel had been hit by 52 bullets, prosecutors said. Coroners said the autopsy showed that Hung had died after a bullet entered through the left side of his throat and exited from two places on his back. Because the injuries showed marks of a high-velocity bullet, the gun used had probably been a machine gun or a rifle, prosecutors said.

Hung’s son, who captained the ship, a son-in-law and an Indonesian crew member arrived back safely. The captain denied claims from the Philippines that the officers had fired because the Taiwanese ship threatened to ram them. The shooting was not a warning, but a straightforward attack, the younger Hung said, adding that the Philippine vessel was much larger than his tuna boat.

Statements from Philippines government officials saying they expressed sympathy with the dead man’s relatives but would not apologize as long as the investigation had not been completed, enraged Taiwanese public opinion.

Manila’s envoy in Taiwan, Antonio Basilio, personally expressed his condolences to the Hung family during a visit to their home on the island of Hsiao Liuchiu in the company of Foreign Minister David Lin. The minister also showed him the bullet holes in the ship, reports said.

Attending a maritime safety exercise in Taichung Saturday, Ma said he could not rule out any kind of sanctions against the Philippines if that country failed to give an official apology, prosecute the people responsible, pay compensation and give a guarantee that such an incident would not happen again.

As a result of the incident, the CGA said it would send extra ships to the area between Taiwan and the Philippines to help protect fishermen during the tuna-fishing season.

The Philippine version of the event is that the Taiwanese tuna boat rammed a Philippine government vessel in Philippine territorial waters which the country considers as “an aggressive act.”

The Taiwanese boat rammed the 35-meter Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel, MCS-3001, at about 10:30 a.m. last Thursday off Balintang Channel between the provinces of Cagayan and Batanes.

“The ramming of the boat into our vessel was certainly an aggressive act so the PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) responded accordingly,” Philippines Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

According to PCG commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, the Taiwanese fishing boat, Guang Ta Hsin-28, together with another Taiwanese vessel were 43-nautical miles east off Balintang Island when the boats were halted by the crew of MCS-3001, a vessel jointly manned by the PCG and BFAR personnel, for an on-board inspection. However, the smaller Taiwanese fishing boat did not respond to the warning and even tried to ram the Philippine maritime agency vessel.

As a result, the commanding officer of the MCS-3001 ordered to open fire at Guang Ta Hsin-28 to disable its engine. However, Taiwanese fisherman named Hung Shih-cheng was accidentally killed.