TAIPEI: Taiwan on Wednesday froze the hiring of Philippine workers and recalled its envoy to Manila in protest over the killing of a fisherman, rejecting an apology over the incident as inadequate.
The 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead by Philippine coastguards last week after they said his vessel had strayed into territorial waters, sparking outrage in Taiwan at a time of high tensions over regional maritime disputes.
Taiwan said earlier the Philippines had apologized over the incident, but President Ma Ying-jeou insisted Manila offer a formal apology and compensation, apprehend the killer and launch talks on the fishing industry.
“President Ma expressed his strong dissatisfaction over the Philippines’ lack of sufficient sincerity and its shifting attitude,” spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei told reporters, adding that the president would recall Taipei’s envoy to Manila.
Antonio Basilio, the Philippines’ de facto ambassador who made the apology after a meeting with Foreign Minister David Lin on Tuesday, had also been asked to return to Manila to “help properly handle” the case, she said.
“If the Philippine government cannot satisfy our side’s four demands by 6 p.m. today, our government will adopt a second wave of sanctions,” Lee said.
Basilio said the Philippines will now send special envoy Amadeo Perez to reiterate his “deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines” to the people of Taiwan and the fisherman’s family.
Perez is chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) which represents the Philippines’ interest in Taiwan.
However, Taiwan’s Premier Jiang Yi-huah said it was unacceptable that the apology came from the “people of the Philippines” rather than the government as it was the Coast Guard that was responsible for the shooting.
“Philippine civil servants killed a person and damaged the boat, the Philippine government cannot avoid responsibility,” he said.
Jiang said the second wave of sanctions would include a “red” travel alert against the Philippines urging the public not to visit the country, and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials from the two sides.
The shooting incident triggered public fury in Taiwan, and aggravated tensions that were already running high in the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the strategic and resource-rich maritime region.
Taiwan has threatened to conduct a naval exercise in waters near the Philippines in protest over the fisherman’s death.
There are currently 87,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan and labor authorities said nearly 2,000 new applications are submitted monthly.
In 2011, Taiwan temporarily expanded the screening period for Philippine workers and threatened to freeze hiring over a diplomatic row sparked when Manila deported Taiwanese nationals to China.