Philippine Team Will Inspect Boat at Center of Shooting Incident

Taiwan will allow Philippines investigators to inspect a fishing boat that was fired on by the Philippine coast guard in a confrontation that killed a fisherman and strained ties between the two governments.

Taiwanese prosecutors will accompany the Philippine team as it examines the boat, Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The investigators will also check the vessel’s voyage record.

Allowing the Philippines to inspect the Guang Da Hsin 28 may ease tensions that spiked after the May 9 shooting and led President Ma Ying-jeou to threaten economic sanctions. Both sides said the incident occurred in their territorial waters, and Ma rejected President Benigno Aquino’s offer to apologize.

Aquino said May 21 that investigators hadn’t been able to finish their probe because they were barred from seeing the vessel, which was riddled with bullet holes. The Filipino team arrived in Taipei today and plans to study ballistics evidence on the boat May 30, according to the Taiwan statement.

A Taiwanese team that arrived in Manila yesterday plans to inspect the Philippine coast guard vessel that fired on the fishing boat, the ministry said. The team will be allowed to see the coast guard’s video of the shooting, Philippines National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez told reporters yesterday.

“Everything that is with us will be offered to the Taiwanese investigators,” Mendez said.

After the shooting, which killed 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, Ma suspended approvals of Filipino work applications.

Separately, Taiwan’s National Security Council said yesterday Ma will lead a simulation of conflicts in the East or South China Sea as part of annual military exercises.