Taiwan's government has issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Philippines' government, demanding an apology over the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman.
Its coastguard dispatched four vessels to guard the disputed water where the shooting took place
Ao Ming-wei, the captain of the coastguard vessel Tainan Jian said his vessel was prepared to face provocation and the crew would fire against possible threats. Taiwan has demanded Manila apologise and compensate the victim's family or face a freeze on the hiring of its nationals.
It also asked the Philippines to bring to justice the coastguards responsible and start negotiating a fisheries agreement.
"If the Filipino government fails to respond in a positive manner within 72 hours, the hiring of Philippine workers will be frozen," presidential office spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei said on Saturday cited by Al Jazeera.
The BBC's Cindy Sui in Taiwan says however that while the Philippines' representative to Taiwan has expressed sympathy and condolences to the victim's family, the Philippines has refused to apologise, pending the investigation. Officials in Manila have said that their initial findings suggest that the coast guard acted in self-defence and that fishing boat tried to ram into the coastguard vessel.
But Taiwan is not satisfied with the Philippines actions.
"If the Philippines presidential office continues to respond to our request in such an attitude... They will have to pay a price," according to a statement from Taiwan's presidential office. Taiwan will freeze all new applications of Filipinos to work on the island, said local media. There are currently 80,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan, Faith Hung in Taipei reported for Reuters. Those Filipinos working in Taiwan have been sending home hundreds of millions of dollars a year according to The West.
Fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, the skipper of the fishing boat, was shot dead when the coastguard vessel opened fire on his boat. He was in waters south-east of Taiwan and north of the Philippines, an area considered by both countries to be their exclusive economic zone. The victim's son, who was with his father and two other sailors on the boat at the time, has insisted they did not cross into Philippine waters. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.
After inspecting the boat, Taiwanese officials said they did not find the Philippines' explanation credible as there were 52 bullet holes in the boat and the fishermen were unarmed. "This is very brutal and cold-blooded," Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said on Saturday, warning that his country would consider sanctions against the Philippines amid widespread public anger towards Manila over the shooting.
Taiwanese officials also said that the coastguard chased the boat for some time and did not offer help to the distressed vessel after it was damaged by the shooting. It argued that opening fire on an unarmed fishing boat violated international law.
Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who has been the 15th President of the Philippines since June 2010, said he did not want to comment further, preferring to let diplomats handle the dispute. "If we comment on that at the presidential level, we guarantee the issue will escalate," Aquino said. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea. Taiwan has ruled itself since 1949, but China still considers the island part of its territory. The Philippines, like most countries, officially recognises China over Taiwan but maintains trade ties with the island.