President Ma Ying-jeou said on Saturday that Taiwan would consider sanctions against the Philippines amid widespread public outrage at Manila over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman.
“We will definitely seek justice for our fisherman. We will not rule out the possibility of taking any kind of sanctions” against the Philippines, Ma said while inspecting a coastguard drill in central Taiwan.
“The Philippines shot an unarmed fishing boat. This is very brutal and cold-blooded,” he said, reiterating Taipei’s demand for Manila to apologize, apprehend the killer and compensate.
Some Taiwanese lawmakers urged the government to freeze the hiring of Philippine workers to protest after the Philippines admitted its coastguard had fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat.
Taiwanese authorities said 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was killed during the incident, which also left the boat riddled with more than 50 bullet holes.
Ma’s government has come under pressure from the opposition and the media to take action, with the Philippines refusing to apologize and saying the coastguard was tackling illegal fishing.
Philippine Coast Guard Spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said the incident took place in Philippine waters and the Filipino personnel had been properly carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing.
“If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” Balilo told reporters. Hung’s son has insisted that the boat did not cross into Philippine waters.
The Taipei-based China Times called the incident a “criminal case” and demanded Manila shoulder the full responsibility.
“The Philippines’ uncivilized action apparently violated maritime convention, the Taiwan government must take strong counter moves to defend our fishermen’s rights and prevent similar tragedy,” it said in an editorial.
The Apple Daily newspaper called the shooting “an act of brigands” and said Taiwanese people “angrily demand the blood debt be paid”.
Some Taiwanese Internet users allegedly attacked and temporarily paralyzed several Philippine government websites on Friday night, according to Apple Daily.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around 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 sea.