Taipei and Manila have arrived at an agreement, initiating an investigation that will look into the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-Cheng by the Philippine Coast Guard.
The May 9 attack on the Taiwanese fishing boat has triggered a wave of nationalism in Taiwan, and created increased tension between Taiwan and the Philippines. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou demanded an apology from Manila, saying the issue threatened economic relations. Ma also placed a hiring freeze on Filipino employees and told Taiwanese citizens to stop traveling to the tropical islands.
Now, Taiwan's minister of Foreign Affairs, David Lin, announced that the two governments would be working together to investigate the incident that led to the dispute. According to the Taipei Times, Lin said that the consensus was a "positive" step toward alleviating the diplomatic tensions.
Both sides will be traveling to the other country in order to reveal the details of the shooting, and will cooperate with each other to aid individual investigations. The agreement was drafted by both Lin of Taiwan and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of the Philippines, and has been designated to be a "parallel investigation" rather than a "joint investigation."
Last week, a team of Taiwanese investigators traveled to Manila for two days and returned "dissatisfied" with their investigative trip. At the time several Philippine officials told them a joint investigation was out of the question.
An anonymous source revealed to the Taipei Times that while the Philippines has no problem with Taiwanese investigations, "the tense atmosphere last week was not conducive to negotiation, which is why the investigation team returned Saturday seemingly empty-handed."
The new terms will allow for both governments to question witnesses involved with the dispute and examine all relevant evidence brought forth thus far. Taiwan Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang announced yesterday that the KuangTa Hsing No. 28, the Taiwanese fishing boat that carried the slain citizen, was riddled with 45 bullet holes, 24 of which were focused on the cabin where four crew members were seeking shelter. This, along with other forensic evidence from the scene, suggests the shooting was intentional, the Ministry of Justice says.
The exchange of investigative envoys will take place as soon as logistical details on how to cooperate are finalized.