Taiwan to sanction Philippines, send naval ships in fishing spat

TAIPEI Wed May 15, 2013 12:50am EDT

Antonio Basilio (R), the Philippines' representative to Taiwan, speaks during a joint news conference as Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (L) gestures to him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Antonio Basilio (R), the Philippines' representative to Taiwan, speaks during a joint news conference as Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (L) gestures to him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei May 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan on Wednesday recalled its envoy to the Philippines, froze applications for work permits and ordered military exercises in waters between the two sides to press its demand for an apology for the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman.

Taiwan earlier had issued an ultimatum to the Philippines to apologize to the family of the fisherman who died in a shooting last week by the Philippine Coast Guard in waters off the northern Philippines.

"Due to the Philippines government's insufficient ... sincerity and its inconsistency, President Ma Ying-jeou expresses strong dissatisfactions and he cannot accept the reckless and perfunctory responses from the Philippines," the Presidential Office said in a statement.

After a high-level meeting, it added, Taiwan decided to immediately impose sanctions, including the recall of its envoy and a freeze on work permit applications.

More than 85,000 Filipinos work in Taiwan, many as domestic workers.

Further measures could also be imposed, Premier Jiang Yi-huah told reporters, including an end to visa-free access to Taiwan for Philippine nationals and stopping economic exchanges.

Separately, a Taiwan Defence Ministry official said military vessels and aircraft would be dispatched to the Bashi Channel, which divides Taiwan and the Philippines, to carry out a two-day military drill.

The Philippines and Taiwan, as well as China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, are embroiled in diplomatic rows over territory in the nearby South China Sea, potentially rich in oil and gas and criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.

The disputes have sometimes escalated to confrontation between vessels. The Philippines and Taiwan have overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in waters to the Philippines north.

A Philippines fisheries official said one of its vessels, acting under the threat of being rammed, opened fire last Thursday on a Taiwanese fishing boat about 170 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan, killing one person on board.

The Philippines has expressed sympathy over what it called an "unfortunate" incident and promised to conduct an investigation, but has stopped short of an official apology.

(Reporting by Clare Jim and Christine Lu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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