Investigators from Taiwan on Tuesday watched a video of the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard on May 9 in the waters off Batanes as part of their probe of an incident that has soured relations between the two countries.
The video footage, almost two hours long, had been turned over by the Coast Guard to the National Bureau of Investigation, which has been conducting its own parallel probe.
“It will help us in the investigation, of course,” said Andrew Lin of the Taiwan Economic Cultural Office (TECO), as he left the viewing at the NBI headquarters in Manila.
No other comments were made about the contents of the video.
The visiting investigators, led by Simon Lee of the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau, was also completing a list of people they want to question in connection with the shooting, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
NBI Deputy Director for Regional Operations, Virgilio Mendez, said the Taiwanese will interview the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on Wednesday and fly out in the afternoon of the same day.
On their second day in the Philippines, the Taiwanese met with Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and NBI Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas.
Later in the day, they visited the Coast Guard headquarters and inspected the MCS 3001 vessel involved in the shooting.
“The investigation is still ongoing. There are at least 10 to 12 Taiwanese investigators on board MCS 3001. The Coast Guard is assisting them in whatever way we can,” said Coast Guard chief information officer Cdr. Armand Balilo.
Balilo said the Taiwanese investigators went to the vessel using Coast Guard service rubber boats and inspected the ship. He added that Coast Guard fleet commander Ed Gongono assisted the investigators, who examined the siren, the location of firearms, and the slightly damaged portion of the ship.
The Coast Guard personnel said they fired on the Taiwanese shipping vessel, Guang Ta Hsin 28, when it tried to ram them.
“The PCG is not hiding anything from them. Whatever they asked, we tried to help them,” Gongono said.
The Coast Guard earlier relieved 11 personnel who were involved in the shooting, pending an investigation.
The death of the 65-year-old fisherman, Hung Shi-cheng, has triggered anger in Taiwan, which has imposed economic sanctions against the Philippines, including a freeze on the hiring of Filipinos and a travel alert.
On Tuesday, an administration lawmaker urged the Aquino government to tap the diplomatic expertise and connections of former President Fidel V. Ramos to ease tensions between the two countries.
Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, the chairman of the House committee on labor and employment, said Ramos could help in dealing with a backlash against Filipino workers in Taiwan as a result of the May 9 shooting.
Earlier, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, vice chairwoman of the House committee on women and children, said the Philippines should be more upfront and stop denying its culpability.
“If the Taiwanese government is already extending a conciliatory move by proposing a joint investigation, what do we lose if we agree? Unless we are hiding something,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan said the Philippines should show cooperation without looking subservient given the stakes involved. There are about 85,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.
Taiwan is also the sixth largest source of visitors to the Philippines. With Joel E. Zurbano and Maricel V. Cruz