Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kuang Ta Hsing Incident: Cause for Celebration, Cause for Regret

Kuang Ta Hsing Incident: Cause for Celebration, Cause for Regret
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
A Translation
August 9, 2013

Summary: The Kuang Ta Hsing incidence is over. This is cause for optimism. But we must not celebrate too soon. Judicial rulings and fisheries negotiations await. They are the key to future ROC-Philippine relations. Only the institutionalization of ROC-Philippine relations can truly assure the rights of our fishermen.

Full text below:

The bloody Kuang Ta Hsing Number 28 fishing vessel incident has come to an end. Foreign Ministry shuttle diplomacy has resulted in the Philippine government agreeing to four ROC government demands, The ROC government lifted 11 economic sanctions on the Philippines. The three month long ROC-Philippines standoff has finally ended, The lengthy quest for legal responsibility however has just begun.

Let us review developments between the ROC and the Philippine to date. They include two causes for celebration, and two causes for regret. One cause for celebration is that negotiations led to concrete and significant breakthroughs. One cause for regret is that domestic factors in the Philippines could still sabotage the final outcome.

Consider another cause for optimism. As Liuchiu County Chief Tsai Tian-yu noted, many fishermen from Taiwan have been shot and killed by Philippines police. This is the first time they have gotten their day in court. In a formal apology, Manila Economic and Cultural Office chief Perez conveyed Philippine President Aquino's official message, including a "touching" personal letter.  The letter offered the Philippines' profoundest apologies to the Hung family. The ROC and the Philippines signed a confidentiality agreement regarding the amount of restitution. But it is rumored that the Philippine government referred to the historic amount as "astronomical." Apparently the Philippine government, which has treated the ROC cavalierly in the past, is now dealing with the problem in earnest.

This is very different from the Philippines' handling of the Hong Kong hostage shooting incident of 2010. During the Kuang Ta Hsing incident, the ROC government obtained concrete commitments from the Philippines government. Take for example, punishment of the murderer. The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation considers the shooting of Hung Shi-cheng by Philippine Coast Guard members accidental and unintentional. Nevertheless it recommended charging eight members of the Coast Guard who opened fire with manslaughter. Take the fisheries agreements. The Philippine government has promised to avoid the future use of force when patroling the seas. The ROC and the Philippines have agreed to begin bilateral fisheries negotiations within the month. In other words, the Philippines justice system initially tried to bury the case. Now it appears determined to investigate.

Based on current developments, the ROC government has made four demands. Its demands for an apology and compensation have been met. Its demands for punishment of the murderer and negotiations on fisheries agreements have yet to be fulfilled. For the Hung family, the Kuang Ta Hsing incident is over. But for the government, systematic negotiations between the two governments have yet to begin.

The ROC government has lifted economic sanctions against the Philippines. The Philippine government has long been unreliable regarding its commitments. Now that sanctions have been lifted, will its judicial system continue to take the ROC-Philippines fisheries dispute seriously? We cannot be certain. Two reasons come to mind.

One. The Philippine judicial system is highly politicized. The Philippine Bureau of Investigation recommended manslaughter charges against the eight Coast Guard members who opened fire. But will their recommendation be adopted by the Philippine courts? That remains to be seen. Consider the Hong Kong hostage incident. The investigation report determined that Manila Deputy Mayor Moreno left the scene at the crucial moment, therefore he should be prosecuted for negligence. But under pressure from the Malacanang Palace, the Philippine courts vetoed it. The ROC government must keep a close eye on the Philippines judiciary, to ensure that the guilty are punished.

Two. The Philippines public is biased in favor of the Coast Guard members. The Philippine Bureau of Investigation report provoked an intense backlash. The public considered the report a serious blow to the morale of Coast Guard members. The Philippine Coast Guard vowed to defend the eight Coast Guard members. Two Philippine university professors offered to defend them, pro bono. President Aquino has long been adept at exploiting public sentiment. Will this become another excuse to delay ROC Philippine fisheries negotiations?

Three months ago the Philippine government treated the case in a cavalier manner. Now however, it has issued a "touching" speech. President Aquino's attitude has undergone drastic change. The eleven economic sanctions the ROC imposed was a factor. Another factor was U.S. government pressure.

The United States has implemented an "Asian rebalancing" policy. The Philippines has regained its strategic status vis a vis the United States. The support of the United States has become Aquino's diplomatic trump card. But increased ROC-Philippines conflict provides Mainland Chinese naval forces an excuse to enter the South China Sea, as well as promote cross-Strait military cooperation. This is what Washington is most unwilling to see. As a result the U.S. intervened, demanding Philippine restraint. Naturally this has let the air out of Aquino's balloon. As we can see, the ROC made good use of foreign policy during the ROC-Philippines incident, It leveraged its power in the best interests of the nation.

The Kuang Ta Hsing incidence is over. This is cause for optimism. But we must not celebrate too soon. Judicial rulings and fisheries negotiations await. They are the key to future ROC-Philippine relations. Only the institutionalization of ROC-Philippine relations can truly assure the rights of our fishermen.

2013.08.11 02:46 am












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