Taiwan set to ban Filipino workers after shooting at sea

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has threatened to recall his representative from the Philippines and freeze worker applications if the Philippines government doesn't apologise within 72 hours for the killing of a fisherman at sea.

Ms Ma demanded the Philippines investigate the May 9 shooting, compensate the man's family, punish those responsible and start talks to resolve a dispute over the waters where the incident occurred. The Philippines government expressed ''heartfelt sorrow'' over the shooting, while stopping short of an apology.

The limiting of Filipino workers may slow a push by President Benigno Aquino to cut the jobless rate and pressure employers in Taiwan, where Filipinos make up the third-largest foreign group. The Philippines' overseas workforce accounts for 10 per cent of its gross domestic product.

The commander and crew of the vessel that opened fire on the fishing boat have been relieved of duty, Mr Aquino's spokeswoman, Abigail Valte, said.

While declining to comment on Ms Ma's ultimatum, Ms Valte said the Philippines expressed ''heartfelt sorrow on the unfortunate situation that occurred during one of the anti-illegal fishing patrols conducted by a Philippine fishery law enforcement vessel''.

If the Philippines fails to respond by Thursday, Ms Ma may halt worker applications, recall his representative and send the Philippine envoy back home, according to a government statement.

Almost 1.7 million overseas Filipinos remit about $US20 billion back home annually, equal to about 10 per cent of gross domestic product, as they struggle to find jobs in their homeland. .

Taiwan had more than 85,000 Filipino residents as of March, 61 per cent of whom were female. The number of Filipinos among resident foreigners is third behind Indonesians and Vietnamese , according to Taiwan's National Immigration Agency.

Taiwan sent three armed ships and a vessel carrying a helicopter to conduct patrols in the waters, China's official Xinhua News Agency said. The agency also said Ms Ma had visited the dead man's family and vowed to protect fishermen.

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory and also claims waters near the Philippines, said that it was ''deeply concerned about the Philippines' repeated shooting at unarmed fishermen''. In April last year, Chinese ships blocked the Philippines from inspecting Chinese fishing boats in the area.

In January, a Japanese Coast Guard vessel fired water cannons at a Taiwanese boat to keep activists away from asserting sovereignty claims to islands known in Chinese as Diaoyu, and in Japanese as Senkaku. Those islands, north-east of Taiwan, are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.

The Philippines asked the United Nations in January to rule on its maritime disputes with China.

Bloomberg

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