Taiwan Threatens Filipino Hiring Freeze After Sea Shooting

Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou threatened to recall his representative from the Philippines and freeze worker applications if the government doesn’t apologize within 72 hours for the killing of a fisherman at sea.

Ma demanded the Philippines investigate the May 9 shooting, compensate the man’s family, punish those responsible and start talks to resolve a dispute over the waters where the incident occurred, his office said on its website May 11. The Philippines government expressed “heartfelt sorrow” over the shooting while stopping short of an apology.

“It is in the interest of both parties to proceed on a calm basis,” President Benigno Aquino told reporters in Manila today when asked about Taiwan’s threatened hiring freeze. Diplomats were in touch with Taiwanese counterparts in an effort to prevent repercussions from the incident, he said.

Placing limits on work applications may slow Aquino’s push to cut the jobless rate, with Filipinos the third-largest group of foreign workers in Taiwan. The Philippines’ overseas workforce accounts for 10 percent of its gross domestic product.

The commander and crew of the vessel that opened fire on the fishing boat have been have been relieved of duty, Aquino spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in an e-mail. While declining to comment on Ma’s ultimatum, Valte said the Philippines expresses “heartfelt sorrow on the unfortunate situation that occurred during one of the anti-illegal fishing patrols conducted by a Philippine fishery law enforcement vessel.”

Apology Demand

Taiwan rejected Valte’s comments and insisted on an official apology, Central News Agency reported, citing Foreign Minister David Lin.

If the Philippines fails to respond by the end of May 14, Ma may halt worker applications, recall his representative and send the Philippine envoy back home, according to the statement from his office.

Almost 1.7 million overseas Filipinos remit approximately $20 billion every year. The Philippines’ jobless rate climbed to 7.1 percent in January from 6.8 percent the previous month with about 660,000 positions lost since October 2011.

Taiwan had more than 85,000 Filipino residents as of March, 61 percent of whom were women, according to Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency.

Armed Ships

Taiwan yesterday sent three armed ships and a vessel carrying a helicopter to conduct patrols in the waters, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said, adding that Ma visited the dead man’s family and vowed to protect fishermen.

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory and also claims waters near the Philippines, said May 10 it’s “deeply concerned about the Philippines’ repeated shooting at unarmed fishermen.” In April last year, Chinese ships blocked the Philippines from inspecting Chinese fishing boats in the area.

The Philippines asked the United Nations in January to rule on its maritime disputes with China. A tribunal was appointed last month and will decide by July if it has jurisdiction, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said April 26.

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