Taiwan removes sanctions against Philippines after apology for fisherman's shooting

Chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office Amadeo R. Perez (right) shakes hands with Mrs Hung Chen A-lun (centre), widow of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, during a news conference in Liuqiu, Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, on August
Chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office Amadeo R. Perez (right) shakes hands with Mrs Hung Chen A-lun (centre), widow of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, during a news conference in Liuqiu, Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, on August 8, 2013. Mr Perez, an envoy appointed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino, apologised to the family of Mr Hung, who was shot dead by Filipino coast guards in disputed waters of the South China Sea in May, according to local media. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan lifted its sanctions against the Philippines on Thursday after Manila apologised for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman, an incident which had severely strained relations.

"The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan's official title) announces that the sanction against the Philippines is removed immediately after the Filipino side has displayed apology and goodwill in written statements and action," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The move came after Mr Amadeo R. Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office which handles relations in the absence of diplomatic ties, flew to Taiwan and offered an "official apology" on behalf of Filipino President Benigno Aquino.

Tensions had risen sharply after the 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead by Filipino coastguards on May 9 in waters near an island in the Philippines' extreme north, which Taiwan also claims as part of its economic zone.

Mr Perez travelled to the small southern port town of Hsiaoliuchiu to meet the family of the dead man Hung Shih-cheng.

In televised comments, Mr Perez said he wished to convey "the Philippine people's deep regret and apology to the family of Mr Hung Shih-cheng over this unfortunate loss of life of their beloved one".

"May I respectfully present our official letter of apology to the family of Mr Hung on behalf of our president and our people," he told Mr Hung's widow, before giving her the letter and shaking her hands.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said the Hung family and the Filipino government had reached a settlement on compensation, without specifying its content.

It said Manila had also agreed to hold further talks on a proposed fisheries agreement as part of their efforts to avoid another such tragedy while handling disputes.

Taiwan had rejected earlier apologies by Manila as inadequate and imposed a series of sanctions, including a ban on hiring new Filipino workers, an advisory urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of trade and academic exchanges.

But diplomatic tensions eased after Philippine authorities said on Wednesday that they had recommended homicide charges against eight Filipino coastguards for Mr Hung's death.

Mr Perez had previously visited Taiwan in May as a "personal representative" of President Aquino, but his apology was rejected by the Taipei government because he had described Mr Hung's death as "unintended." The killing caused outrage and protests in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou describing it as "cold-blooded murder" as Taipei responded with the sanctions and with navy drills.