By VERA Files
A crew member of a Taiwanese trawler was killed Thursday morning after being fired upon by a Philippine Navy ship in the disputed area of the South China Sea, media reports in Taipei and Beijing said.
The online Taiwan News said the incident took place at 10 a.m. “about halfway between the southern tip of Taiwan and the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, in an area where territorial rights overlap.”
The report identified the fatality as Hung Shih-cheng, 65, father of the captain of the vessel Kuang Ta Hsing 28 registered in Pingtung County.
The other crew members included Hung’s son-in-law and an Indonesian citizen, reports said.
Tsai Jih-yao, deputy director-general of the Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture, said the fishing trawler, which was fishing for tuna, was so severely damaged it lost engine power.
No official statement has been issued by the Philippine government.
Sought for comment, officials of the Navy, Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said they have not received any such report, a news account in Taiwan said.
"If warships were involved in such an event, we would be the first one to receive the news," the report quoted an Armed Forces of the Philippines officer as saying.
The report also quoted a Philippine official as saying, “The incident happened in waters far away from the shore. We don't have any ship over there.”
According to Taiwan News, the Taiwanese government has asked its representative in Manila and the Philippine representative in Taipei to provide more details.
The Philippines, which adheres to the One-China Policy, has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the two countries maintain economic and cultural offices in Manila and Taipei which serve as de facto embassies.
A Xinhua report said the spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Yang Yi, strongly condemned the killing describing it as “barbaric.”
“We are in deep mourning over the fisherman's death and express condolence over the shooting," Yang said.
The fishermen’s organization in Pingtung urged Taiwan government to protest to Manila and demand compensation. They said the ship had been effectively destroyed, with its engines and nets completely destroyed, Taiwan News said.
Taiwan, like China, claims the whole of the South China Sea where the Spratlys consisting of some 160 islands are located. Some of the islands are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. Taiwan occupies the biggest island, Itu Aba.
Thursday’s encounter happened two days after the Philippines warned China against trespassing its maritime borders after it was reported that China was sending a flotilla, including 30 fishing vessels, to the Spratly Islands.
Taiwan News said another fishing ship was on its way from the Pingtung County harbor of Tungkang to provide assistance to the trawler, which is located 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of the island of Taiwan and still had a crew of three on board. The Coast Guard was reportedly also sending a ship to help out, reports said.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)