FORT SAN FELIPE, Cavite City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd is seeking an explanation on a letter sent by Antonio Basilio, executive director of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), to Taiwanese investigators.
In the letter, which was dated May 10, Basilio allegedly agreed to a joint investigation between the Philippines and Taiwan. However, Malacanang has already said that Basilio’s letter was not authorized by the President.
In an interview, Mr. Aquino said that he instructed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to talk to Basilio to verify these reports.
The President said that he did not agree to proposals for a joint probe with Taiwan.
“Inatasan natin ang Secretary of Foreign Affairs na kausapin si Mr. Basilio at mai-check, ano, ‘yung mga naulat na sinasabing sinabi niya [I instructed the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to talk to Mr. Basilio and to clarify all the things that he said. ],” he said
“Gusto kong masigurado kung ano actually ang sinabi niya at ma-check kung lumampas doon sa ating mga direktiba [I just want to make sure that he actually said that and to check if he did not follow my directives],” he added
The Philippine government has made it clear that it will not agree to a joint investigation on the matter, with the President giving the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the sole authority to look into the incident.
On one hand, Mr. Aquino said that the NBI’s probe into the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard was over except for the physical examination of the fishing vessel in Taiwan.
“Kausap natin si Secretary de Lima, natapos na raw ‘yung kanilang investigation except for the physical examination of the subject boat, ano [I talked to Secretary Leila de Lima. She said the investigation is finished except for the physical examination of the subject boat],” he said
“At ‘yan ay nasa Taiwan, hinihintay ang clearance for the team to go there to inspect mutually this boat, to complete the thorough investigation [Since it’s in Taiwan, they’re waiting for the clearance from the team to go there to inspect visually the boat to complete the thorough investigation],” he added
Meanwhile, Mr. Aquino said that the Philippines is open to possible fisheries cooperation agreement with Taiwan after its diplomatic row is resolved.
The President noted that he has already tasked appropriate agencies to study the possibility of entering into a fisheries agreement, taking into consideration the limitations imposed by the Constitution.
He added that he wants this negotiation not only with Taiwan but also with other neighbors to prevent disputes at sea.
“Guarding the national patrimony provisions of the Constitution will come into play,” Mr. Aquino said. “So, after we finish this issue, we will talk to every neighbor that we have to ensure peaceful and parang equally prosperous relations with everybody.”