Philippine skipper pleads not guilty to 2013 fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman

MANILA - The skipper of a Coast Guard ship involved in the 2013 shooting and death of a Taiwanese fisherman, an incident that triggered a tense diplomatic row between Manila and Taipei, has pleaded not guilty to homicide charges.

In a hearing before a court in Batanes province north of Manila on Monday, Philippine Coast Guard Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz pleaded not guilty to the killing of Mr Hung Shih-cheng off the Balintang Channel in May 2013.

The court deferred the arraignment of the other Coast Guard men involved in the case.

Mr Hung died from a bullet wound in the neck when his boat, the Guang Da Xing 28, was fired upon by a Coast Guard ship commanded by De la Cruz off Batanes province north of the main island of Luzon.

The Coast Guard stood by its men, claiming the fishing boat entered the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone and then tried to ram its patrol craft.

Taipei maintained the fishing boat was in an exclusive economic zone that overlapped the Philippines', and that De la Cruz and his men used excessive force when they fired upon the boat as they chased it for over an hour.

Mr Hung's death enraged the whole of Taiwan, resulting in sanctions against the Philippines.

Taipei barred migrant Filipino workers from its lucrative labour market and curbed the vibrant travel business between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The sanctions were lifted in August last year after Philippine President Benigno Aquino offered a formal apology and agreed to compensate Mr Hung's family.

rdancel@sph.com.sg

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