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President Ma Says Philippine Attack "Cold-Blooded Murder"

President Ma Says Philippine Attack "Cold-Blooded Murder"

President Ma Ying-jeou said on May 17 that a Philippine government vessel's use of automatic weapons to strafe an unarmed and unprovocative fishing boat was "cold-blooded murder."

The president was referring to an attack by a Philippine patrol boat on a Taiwanese fishing boat operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the two countries on May 9 in which Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was shot and killed.

In an apology issued by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday through Amadeo R. Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, the shooting was described as "the unfortunate and unintended loss of life," wording that Ma took issue with.

"We can by no means accept such a statement," the president said at a meeting with scholars who participated in an International Law Association conference a day earlier.

Because the attack involved a government vessel using automatic weapons to spray an unarmed and unprovocative fishing boat with bullets, "this was no longer executing an official duty; this was cold-blooded murder," he said.

"The Philippine government vessel opened fire at our fishing boat in our economic zone, killing one fisherman and seriously damaging our fishing boat."

The president noted that the two sides were now involved in negotiations related to the case, but he said the incident highlighted the need to use international law to solve international disputes.

He noted that Article 73 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that measures can be taken by a coastal state, including boarding, inspection, arrest and judicial proceedings, in its exclusive economic zones to exercise its sovereignty, but it is not allowed to "open fire, much less kill."

Ma said the Philippines is a signatory country of the U.N. convention, and "as a decent and respectable member of the international community as it believes itself to be, it should of course abide by the rules of international law."

The president said that because of the vast overlapping area of the two sides' exclusive economic zones, Taiwanese fishing boats have often been boarded and inspected by Philippines vessels while operating in these waters, and several Taiwanese fishermen have been killed, most recently in 2006.

But justice has never been done because the Philippines would not allow its people to come to Taiwan to stand trial, Ma said.

"The tragedy has taken place again. On the one hand, we regret this, but on the other hand we are extremely angry," he said.

The president said the government will continue to negotiate with the Philippines and hopes to solve the issue in a peaceful way, but he insisted that international justice and the principle of not resolving problems through force have to be upheld.

Ma also asked that Taiwanese law enforcement personnel protect the more than 80,000 Filipino laborers working in Taiwan.

Following the incident on May 9, Taiwan made four demands of the Philippines, asking for a formal apology, compensation for the victim's family, an investigation into the case and punishment of those responsible, and the start of fishery talks.

The Philippines have addressed the demands, but Taiwan's government has rejected Manila's response as insincere and inadequate.

Ma said he hoped the diplomatic dispute could be solved soon, saying that the demands were reasonable and feasible.


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