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Philippines Team Meets With Taiwanese to Probe Fisherman’s Death

Teams from the Philippines and Taiwan met today as each side investigates the death of a Taiwanese fisherman that led to a ban on new work applications for Filipinos seeking jobs on the island.

Taiwan wants to inspect the Philippine Coast Guard ship that opened fire on the Taiwanese fishing vessel May 9, while the Philippines wants to speak with witnesses and see the boat that came under attack, Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

“There is no joint probe but both are undertaking respective investigations,” de Lima said after the meeting today. “Proper collaboration will be made. It is understood that neither side will be interfering with the other.”

The shooting has soured trade ties after Taiwan refused to accept Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s offer to apologize and imposed a series of economic punishments. Taiwanese grocers have pulled Philippine goods from stores and travel agencies canceled trips amid a broader Taiwanese halt to diplomatic engagement.

The Philippines may evacuate its 87,000 workers in Taiwan if tensions over the killing lead to widespread violence against Filipinos, Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for Aquino, said by phone today. At least three Filipinos in Taiwan have been attacked since the shooting.

“Now, there seems to be no need,” Valte said. “Should the need arise, we are prepared to evacuate.”

$650 Million

Filipinos working in Taiwan remit more than $650 million in total to the Philippines each year, according to a statement today by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila. Almost 1.7 million Filipinos overseas send home about $20 billion a year.

The Philippines may consider directing more citizens to South Korea, Malaysia and the Middle East if they leave Taiwan, Valte said.

“The Labor Department continues to search for alternative markets, mostly in the manufacturing sector,” Valte said. Taiwan has “taken every necessary measure to protect” Filipinos, its economic office in Manila said.

Speaking at today’s briefing, de Lima declined to comment on Taiwan’s findings that the killing of the fisherman was intentional, saying it’s premature to come to any conclusion. The shooting occurred in waters claimed by both sides.

A Taiwanese statement from May 18 said the number of bullets fired at the vessel show that “the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder.”

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