Taiwan crewmen submit testimony in Philippine shooting probe

MANILA - Three crewmen from a Taiwanese fishing boat that was fired upon by Philippine coastguards in an incident that sparked a diplomatic row submitted their sworn statements to prosecutors in Manila Monday.

The prosecutors are preparing homicide charges against eight coastguards over the shooting to death of 65-year-old crew member Hung Shih-cheng on May 9.

The charges were a key demand from Taipei as both sides move to mend bilateral ties.

The crewmen, two Taiwanese and an Indonesian, were accompanied by diplomats and interpreters as they submitted their statements.

The shooting occurred in waters near an island in the Philippines' extreme north, which Taiwan also claims as part of its economic zone.

The coastguard had said the Taiwanese vessel was fishing illegally and they were forced to fire in self-defence as it tried to ram them.

But a video of the incident released last month has shown there was no attempt at ramming.

The Philippines and Taiwan began repairing a serious diplomatic rift after Philippine authorities recommended homicide charges in August.

That move was welcomed by the Taiwanese government, which reciprocated by lifting a ban on the hiring of new Filipino workers on the island.

Some 87,000 Filipinos work in Taiwan, according to official figures.