Taiwan lifts all 11 sanctions vs. PHL, including hiring freeze

(Updated 11:41 p.m.)

Three months after a maritime encounter on May 9 that led to the death of a Taiwanese fisherman, Taiwan on Thursday finally lifted a freeze on hiring Filipino workers and other sanctions it imposed on the Philippines.

Taiwanese foreign affairs minister David Lin made the announcement Thursday evening after meeting with Manila Economic and Cultural Office chairman Amadeo Perez Jr., Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

The lifting of the sanctions was confirmed by Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila (TECO) political director Andrew Lin in a text message to GMA News Online.

Aside from the removal of the hiring freeze, the other sanctions lifted included a "red" travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, as well as a halt to exchanges on trade and academic affairs.

Formal apology

Perez had served as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's representative in going to Taipei Thursday to apologize to the family of fisherman Hung Shih Cheng, 65, who was killed in the May 9 encounter.

Following the May 9 incident, Taiwan imposed several sanctions on the Philippines, including freezing the hiring of workers in Taiwan and imposing a travel alert against going to the Philippines.

On Thursday, Perez left for Taiwan to apologize to the fisherman's family, radio dzBB reported.

A separate report on CNA said Perez was authorized to "personally convey [Aquino's] and the Filipino people's deep regret and apology to the family" for "the unfortunate loss" of Hung Shih-cheng's life.

According to an Agence France-Presse report, Perez travelled to the small southern port town of Hsiaoliuchiu to meet the family.

"May I respectfully present our official letter of apology to the family of Mr. Hung on behalf of our president and our people," he told Hung's widow, before giving her the letter and shaking her hand.

Hung's family accepted the Philippines' apology, Perez said in a "24 Oras" report.

"Nagrespond naman 'yung anak at 'yung biyuda na tinatanggap nila 'yung apology ng Pilipinas," Perez said.

Findings

Perez's visit came a day after both Taiwan and the Philippines released their respective findings on the incident.

In Manila, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it has recommended homicide charges against eight Coast Guard personnel in the shooting.

The NBI also recommended sanctions against four others for allegedly trying to alter the evidence.

PHL-Taiwan tension

While diplomatic and intercultural tensions simmered between the Philippines and Taiwan in the weeks that followed the May 9 incident, Taiwanese fishermen have apparently become more daring in their incursions into Philippine fishing waters, according to Batanes-based fishermen who have interacted with Batanes province officials and researchers of the University of the Philippines' Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Batanes aquaculturist Joseph Taguba said in an interview with GMA News Online that local fishermen have noticed how the Taiwanese fishing groups have increased in number and become more assertive.

Taguba said local fishermen no longer bother to report the Taiwanese incursions because the Philippine Coast Guard stationed there have no sea vessels with which they could go after the poachers.

— with a report by Amita Legaspi and Michaela del Callar/BM/ELR/DVM, GMA News

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