By Bernice Camille V. Bauzon Reporter
Taiwan on Tuesday stopped issuing working visas to Filipinos in retaliation to the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in disputed waters.
Edouard Tai, assistant to the head of the Taipei Economic Cooperation Office (TECO) in Manila, confirmed that his government stopped the issuance of working visas. He said though that visitors’ visas will still be processed.
A recruiter who refused to be identified said that as of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the application and verification of working and tourist visas to Taiwan have been cut off.
Filipinos who live and work in Taiwan are mostly in the manufacturing industry. Some of them also work as caregivers.
Sources said Antonio Basilio, the head of the Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO) in Taipei, returned to Manila earlier this week. He went back to Taiwan on Tuesday night to present the Philippines’ formal apology.
Malacañang has imposed a news blackout on the issue.
The Taiwanese government gave the Philippines a three-day ultimatum, which ended on Tuesday evening, to apologize for the killing of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng, skipper of fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28. Taiwan also demanded compensation for the victim, and that Manila punish the people involved in the incident.
Taiwan and the Philippines are claimants to the disputed islands and waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) together with China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
Taiwan stepped up pressure on Manila on Tuesday, saying it would conduct a naval drill in waters near the Philippines if Manila did not officially apologize for the killing of Hung.
The defense ministry said the military was prepared to conduct an exercise in the waters where Hung was shot on Thursday.
“We’ve prepared ourselves and staging an exercise in the Bashi Channel is one of the military’s options,” an official said. “Whether or not to conduct the drill would be up to the reaction of the Philippine government.”
He declined to provide details but the state Central News Agency said the exercise would be held on Thursday and involved a Kidd-class destroyer, a Perry-class frigate and three coastguard frigates.
A number of fighter jets would also be involved in the drill which would for the first time target the Philippines as the enemy, it said.
Taiwan at the weekend sent four coastguard and naval vessels to protect its fishermen in waters near the Philippines.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has urged all sides “to refrain from provocative actions.”
US voices regret
The US on Monday voiced regret over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman, but stopped short of condemning the incident.
“We regret the tragic death of a Taiwan fishing boat master during a May 9 confrontation at sea with a Philippine patrol vessel,” Psaki told reporters.
“The United States has been in touch with both the Philippine government and the Taiwan authorities. And we welcome the Philippine government’s pledge to conduct a full and transparent investigation.”