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September 24, 2017

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Philippine leader calls for calm over shooting incident

MANILA -- Philippine President Benigno Aquino called for calm Monday amid an escalating dispute with Taiwan over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in a confrontation with the Filipino coastguard.

Aquino said Manila's de facto embassy in Taiwan was in talks with Taiwanese foreign ministry officials and had assured them an investigation was being carried out into last week's incident.

"I think it is in the interest of both parties to proceed in a calm basis," Aquino told reporters. "We are proceeding in that manner."

The Philippine coastguard admitted on Friday to firing at one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that it said had strayed into the country's waters. A 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman died in the confrontation.

Aquino declined to comment on demands by Taiwan at the weekend for his government to apologize for the shooting and pay compensation to the victim's family, or face a freeze of hiring on the island of Filipinos.

There are about 87,000 Philippine domestic helpers and other workers in Taiwan who send home hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Taiwan also sent four coastguard and naval vessels on the weekend to protect its fishermen in waters near the Philippines.

The Philippine government said on Sunday that Antonio Basilio, head of the Philippines' defacto embassy in Taiwan, had visited the family of the fisherman and "extended condolences and apologies".

Aquino 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.

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