Crewmen submit testimony in Philippine shooting probe


MANILA — Three crewmen from a Taiwanese fishing boat that was fired upon by the Philippine coast guard in an incident that sparked a diplomatic row submitted their sworn statements to prosecutors in Manila Monday. The prosecutors are preparing homicide charges against eight coast guard officers over the shooting death of 65-year-old crew member Hung Shih-cheng on May 9. The charges were a key demand from Taipei as both sides move to mend bilateral ties. The crewmen, two Taiwanese and an Indonesian, were accompanied by diplomats and interpreters as they submitted their statements. The shooting occurred in waters near an island in the Philippines’ extreme north, which Taiwan also claims as part of its exclusive economic zone. The coast guard had said the Taiwanese vessel was fishing illegally and they were forced to fire in self-defense as it tried to ram them. But a video of the incident released last month has shown there was no attempt at ramming. The Philippines and Taiwan began repairing a serious diplomatic rift after Philippine authorities recommended homicide charges in August. That move was welcomed by the Taiwanese government, which reciprocated by lifting a ban on the hiring of new Filipino workers on the island.

Some 87,000 Filipinos work in Taiwan, according to official figures.