Filipino coastguards convicted of killing Taiwanese fisherman

Incident in 2013 led to deep rift between the two neighbours, then agreement to avoid use of force in fishing disputes.

Taiwan - Philippines dispute
The Philippines has found eight Filipino sailors guilty in the killing of a fishermen from Taiwan in 2013. The incident triggered a breakdown in relations between the two neighbours. [FILE/Pichi Chuang/Reuters]

Coastguard sailors who opened fire on a Taiwanese fisherman in Philippine waters six years ago were convicted on Wednesday of his killing.

The eight Filipino crewmen said they had shot at the fisherman’s vessel in self-defence when it sailed directly at them in seas off the north of the main Philippine island of Luzon.

A Manila court convicted the men of homicide and sentenced them to a minimum of eight years in prison, although they will be allowed to remain free while they appeal the ruling.

“We are filing a notice of appeal so that what we perceived as errors of the trial court will be threshed out,” Paul Jomar Alcudia, one of the lawyers for the officers, told AFP.

The killing caused a deep rift between the Philippines and Taiwan, both of whom have enjoyed friendly relations, with then-Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou describing what happened as “cold-blooded murder”.

Taiwan ordered a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers, warned its tourists against travelling to the Philippines and staged naval drills near its sea border with Manila.

Then-Philippine president Benigno Aquino repeatedly apologised for the killing and sent an envoy to Taiwan, but these actions were rejected as insincere.

An agreement was subsequently put in place to avoid using force in fishing disputes to avoid similar incidents.

Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said while the agency respected the court’s decision, it was likely to “disappoint” some officers.

“All I know is they did their job,” Balilo told AFP.

Source: AFP