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Taiwan lifts sanctions, says ties with Manila 'normal' again

Taiwan lifts sanctions, says ties with Manila 'normal' again

Taiwan lifted sanctions on the Philippines Thursday and the bilateral relationship strained by the row over a fatal shooting in May is "back to normal," Taiwan's foreign ministry said Thursday.

"I announce on behalf of our government that we have lifted the 11 sanctions imposed on the Philippines," Foreign Minister David Lin said at a news conference, shortly after meeting with Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) and envoy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

MECO is the Philippine institution responsible for handling relations with Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

A separate statement issued by the foreign ministry said: "Effective today, the relations between our two countries are back to normal."

Perez arrived in Taiwan earlier Thursday with the authorization of the Philippine president to deliver a formal letter on Manila's response to Taipei's demands over the shooting on May 9, in which Hung Shih-cheng, a 65-year-old fisherman, was killed by Philippine coast guard officers.

Before holding talks with Lin, Perez called on the victim's family in Pingtung County's Liuqiu Township, off the coast of southern Taiwan, to extend a formal apology over the incident.

A deal has been struck separately with the Philippine side on the sum to be paid out as compensation for the family.

Given the formal letter and the actions, Lin said Manila has met Taiwan's four demands -- a formal apology, punishment of those responsible for the shooting, compensation for the Hung family and bilateral fishery talks to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.

The government thus decided to lift the sanctions against the Philippines, including a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan, a travel alert discouraging Taiwanese nationals to visit the Philippines and suspending most exchange activities.

The letter said that Perez was authorized to represent the Philippine president to convey the president's and the Philippine people's "deep regret and apology" to Hung's family and the people of Taiwan, Lin said.

Hung was fatally shot in the May 9 incident, during which his fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, was sprayed with gunfire from a Philippine coast guard vessel in the two countries' overlapping exclusive economic zones.

The letter said the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has released the report on investigation into the incident and recommended homicide charges against Philippine coast guard officers responsible for the incident, and that the Department of Justice will file the charges as soon as possible, according to Lin.

It also said that in an effort to prevent such incident from happening again in the future, both sides held a fishery meeting June 14 and agreed on avoiding the use of force and violence in the enforcement of fisheries laws and on establishing a mechanism for both sides to inform each other in the event of fishery incidents, Lin said.

The letter said lawyers representing the Hung family and the Philippines have also reached an agreement on compensation, Lin added.

In his meeting with Perez, Lin said he also demanded the Philippines file charges against those responsible for the incident as soon as possible, hand down the harshest possible punishment and make sure that no use of force is allowed by either side's maritime law enforcement authorities in disputed waters.

"We hope Manila can complete the legal prosecution within a month," he said.

Taiwan hopes to hold a second round of fishery talks with the Philippines within a month, preferably in Taipei, according to the foreign minister.

He also said he hopes that the Philippines "takes positive actions" to push for talks on an economic cooperation agreement between the two sides.


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