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PHL gov’t to Taiwanese public: Spare OFWs

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Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (photo courtesy of www.focustaiwan.tw)

Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (photo courtesy of www.focustaiwan.tw)

MANILA, May 16 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine government on Thursday appealed to the people of Taiwan to treat overseas Filipino workers in the area properly amid reports that OFWs are bearing the brunt of the outrage over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that while the Philippine government believes the reported cases of discrimination are “isolated incidents,” OFWs should not be used as “instruments of anger” by the Taiwanese public.

“Hindi naman iyan kagagawan ng sambayanang Taiwan, but let me also appeal to them [to refrain from] hurting our Filipino compatriots there… It does not sit well with anyone,” Lacierda said at a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.

He added that Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) chairman Amadeo Perez already met with Benjamin Ho, director-general of Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, to extend President Aquino’s apology for the shooting incident.

“We did what a respectable member of the international community should have done. We have gone the extra mile. The President has sent a personal representative to express his apology,” Lacierda said.

On May 9, authorities from the Philippine Coast Guard shot fisherman Hung Shih-cheng when the Taiwanese vessel he was riding allegedly tried to ram their ship in disputed waters off the coast of Batanes in extreme northern Luzon.

Due to the shooting incident, some Filipinos in Taiwan reported being denied access to public markets and being considered as “dogs” in some establishments.

Despite repeated apologies from Manila, Taipei stopped the hiring of Filipino workers and discouraging Taiwanese from travelling to the Philippines.

Lacierda said the travel ban imposed by Taiwan on the Philippines will not be beneficial to both parties.

“A ban on travel will not only hurt us. It will hurt both [Taiwan and the Philippines]. It does not do anyone any good. Travel from their end will be affected as well,” he said.

The President’s spokesman also said that the Philippine government is willing to extend assistance to Hung’s family, and assured Taiwan of an “expeditious” probe on the shooting incident.

Initially, Taiwan demanded an apology from the Philippine government, compensation for the family of the slain fisherman, impartial investigation on the incident, and bilateral talks between Manila and Taipei to avoid similar incidents.

The Philippines has already agreed to do the last two demands and Aquino issued an apology to Taiwan on Wednesday.

However, Taiwan rejected Aquino’s apology as “insufficient in sincerity” and slapped additional sanctions including a red travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, as well as a halt to exchanges on trade and academic affairs.

Taiwan also recalled its envoy to Manila. (MNS)

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