US responds to petition on Taiwanese fisherman

US responds to petition on Taiwanese fisherman
This video grab taken from a video released by the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on August 13, 2013 allegedly shows Philippine coastguard personnel pointing a rifle at a Taiwanese fishing boat in disputed waters on May 9, 2013.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The US White House has finally made an official response toward a petition raised regarding an incident that occurred between Taiwan and the Philippines on overlapping waters in 2013 that strained bilateral relations for months.

A total of 115,747 people have signed the We the People Petition, a section of the White House for petitioning the current US administration's policy experts, to ask Washington to "provide necessary assistance to prevent Taiwanese people from being murdered by Philippines and rebuild friendship."

The petition published on May, 15, 2013, was made following the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman on May 9, 2013, by the Philippines Coast Guard in the part of the South China Sea where the two countries' exclusive economic zones (EEZs) overlap.

The White House has agreed to make an official response to any petition that reaches 100,000 signatures.

In an official letter sent yesterday to people who joined in the petition, the White House said the US has "consistently encouraged cooperative efforts between Manila and the authorities in Taiwan to resolve the matter."

"The United States continues to support the ongoing negotiations between Taiwan authorities and the Philippines on a fisheries agreement that will institute measures to make such confrontations less likely in the future."

"We are pleased to see that tensions between Taiwan authorities and the Government of the Philippines have decreased markedly over the past year. We support their efforts to manage their disputes in a peaceful and cooperative manner."

"The Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States, and Taiwan, an important security and economic partner of the United States, in a region vital to international commerce, have much to gain from the full restoration of their longstanding close friendship and cooperation," it added.

Shots Heard Around the World

On May 9, 2013, 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng was shot dead when the Philippines Coast Guard sprayed Hung's boat with bullets in the part of the South China Sea where the two countries' EEZs overlap.

The incident sparked national outrage in Taiwan, prompting the government to impose retaliatory measures against the Philippines.

In August 2013, the Philippines released the results of its probes into the incident, which recommended homicide charges be brought against the eight men involved in the shooting and that punishments be imposed on four others for allegedly trying to tamper with evidence.

Taiwan subsequently lifted its sanctions against the Philippines and issued a statement announcing that relations between the two countries have been normalized.

On March 18, 2014, the Philippines Department of Justice announced its decision to file homicide charges against the eight men over the death of Hung.

The eight Philippine suspects charged with homicide are facing a maximum 21-year prison term under Philippine law.

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