Son of killed fisherman to go to Philippines as witness

Family members of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng mourn next to his body when the Guang Ta Hsin 28 fishing vessel arrives at Liuqiu in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan May 11, 2013.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The son of a Taiwanese fisherman who was killed by members of the Philippine coast guard in overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) last year yesterday flew to the country in preparation for a court proceeding to be held next week.

In the company of his lawyer Hung Yu-chih , the skipper of the fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 flew to Manila to get ready for a court proceeding to be held at Batan island next Monday and Tuesday to testify on the death of his father in the attack.

Speaking to reporters at Kaohsiung International Airport before his departure, Hung said he has confidence in the trial and has full respect for the Philippine judicial system.

"I just hope that there will be a fair trial in my father's death," he added.

On May 9, 2013, Hung's father Hung Shih-cheng was shot dead when the Philippines coast guards sprayed Hung's boat with bullets in the part of the South China Sea where the two countries' EEZs overlap. Hung was on board the vessel.

The incident sparked national outrage in Taiwan, prompting the government to impose retaliatory measures including a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan, a travel alert discouraging Taiwanese nationals from visiting the Philippines and suspending most exchange activities.

In August 2013, the Philippines released the results of its National Bureau of Investigation's inquiry 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, the Philippines Department of Justice announced its decision to file homicide charges against the eight men over the death of Hung Shih-cheng.

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

MOFA to Offer Assistance to Hung

Asked to comment, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao yesterday said that Hung's upcoming appearance at a court in Batan is done in accordance with a mutual legal assistance pact.

Hung, who was on board during the incident, will serve as a witness to facilitate the trial, she added.

Taiwan's representative office in the Philippines has dispatched personnel to accompany Hung and offer all necessary administrative assistance to him during the trial, Kao noted.

The office also asked the Philippines authorities to protect the safety of Hung during court proceedings, she added.