Taiwan lifts sanctions against Philippines

Aug. 9, 2013 at 6:04 AM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Taiwan has lifted the 11 sanctions on the Philippines it imposed over a fisheries dispute that cost the life a Taiwanese fisherman in May.

Taiwanese foreign affairs minister David Lin made the announcement Thursday after meeting with a special envoy from the Philippines, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman Amadeo Perez Jr., Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

Sanctions included a freeze on hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan, the government's warning against travel to the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, in particular meetings involving trade and academic affairs.

Taipei imposed the sanctions after discussion with representatives of the Philippines government sent to apologize for the death May 9 of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65.

The incident -- which sparked a diplomatic row -- happened between the northern tip of the Philippines and the southern coast of Taiwan.

A Philippines coast guard surveillance vessel encountered four Taiwanese fishing boats in waters the Philippines considers an exclusive economic zone, the Philippines coast guard said in a statement at the time.

The coast guard said one of the Taiwanese boats allegedly tried to ram a coast guard vessel as officers attempted to board the fishing boats. The coast guard fired warning shots, trying to disable the vessel, the statement said.

A crew member from one of the Taiwanese boats said the Philippines vessel shot at a fuel tank, resulting in the death of Hung.

Since the incident, Perez has shuttled between the two capitals as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's special envoy ordered to diffuse the affair.

Taiwan previously rejected several attempts by Perez to offer apologies, saying they lacked sincerity.

Immediately after the incident was reported, both sides appealed for calm among their populations, especially in Taipei where an estimated 85,000 Filipinos work in domestic services, The Philippine Star newspaper reported in May.

A senior Taiwanese immigration official cautioned the population that, amid widespread public anger at Manila, there shouldn't be violence against Filipino workers.

Taiwan's GMA News reported this week that Perez had been authorized to convey personally Aquino's and the Filipino people's deep regret for the incident and apologize to the family of Hung.

Perez is reported to have traveled to the small southern port of Hsiaoliuchiu where the family accepted the apology.

While the personal apology and the liftng of sanctions has normalized relations between Taipei and Manila, outstanding issues remain regarding overlapping fishing rights claims in the South China Sea.

Disputes over fishing rights often are wrapped up in disputes over ownership of disputed islands among countries along the coast of the South China Sea.

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