The Philippines will send a special envoy to Taiwan to apologise for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman, his daughter said Monday, signalling a potential breakthrough in a major row.
The remarks sparked hopes that the conciliatory move, if realised, could ease the strained relationship between Taipei and Manila following the shooting of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng on May 9 in disputed waters.
“The Filipino side has agreed to apologise to us in a public manner,” Hung Tzu-ching, the fisherman’s daughter, told reporters in Pingtung city, adding that the agreement was made with lawyers authorised by the Filipino government.
“They have agreed to send a special envoy (over the matter)… we insist the representative must represent the Filipino government. They will let us know in advance who will be appointed. If we feel the designated representative is OK, then the time will be decided,” she said.
Officials at Manila’s Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, the Philippines de facto embassy in Taiwan, were not immediately available for comment.
A presidential spokeswoman in Manila said she had no immediate confirmation of the move.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said the dispute was being processed through diplomatic channels and the results would be released when “the timing becomes mature”.
Hung Shih-cheng was fired upon by a Filipino coastguard vessel while fishing in waters of an economic zone claimed both by Taiwan and the Philippines.
He died on board his ship which was also carrying his son and two other sailors at the time.
The killing caused outrage and protests in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou describing it as “cold-blooded murder” as Taipei responded with sanctions and navy drills.
Ma also insisted Manila offer a formal apology and compensation, apprehend those to blame and launch talks on the fishing industry.
A Filipino envoy had previously flown to Taipei to deliver an apology but it was rejected because Taiwanese authorities insisted he was not authorised by the Filipino government to do so.
The Philippine coastguard initially claimed that the fishing boat intruded into its waters, and that its personnel were forced to open fire when it tried to ram their vessel.
However Philippine investigators have since recommended filing criminal charges against the coastguard members who fired on the boat.
Taiwan and the Philippines have conducted separate investigations into the incident, but the findings have not yet been released. AFP