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Over 200,000 OFWs in Taiwan "well-protected" , MECO says

The remarks of China's older diplomat in the Philippines against supporting Taiwan are not cause for concern because the situation has remained "very normal" and the welfare and interests of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been "well-protected," according to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

“I would like to assure the relatives, parents, wives or husbands of our OFWs that the condition of our OFWs there is excellent,” MECO chairman Silvestre Bello III said in an interview.

The former labor secretary said there are around 200,000 OFWs in Taiwan. “I would be the first one to tell you in case there is an emergency situation, but right now, no tension. Taiwan is very normal. All our Filipino community members are prepared for any exigency,” Bello said.

According to the Chinese embassy in Manila, Ambassador Huang Xilian's comments about OFWs in Taiwan were misquoted, misunderstood, or taken out of context.

If the Philippines cared about the OFWs in Taiwan, Huang encouraged it to clearly oppose Taiwan independence.

The ambassador warned that the Philippines is “stoking the fire” by offering the United States access to the military base near the Taiwan Strait.

China expressed concern and strong disagreement to a joint Philippines-US statement condemning Beijing's activities in the South China Sea, as well as the rapid deployment of four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites, warning that "pandering" to forces outside the region could backfire on Manila.

Sen. Francis Tolentino yesterday proposed that the upcoming Balikatan joint military exercises between Philippine and US troops simulate the evacuation of more than 150,000 OFWs based in Taiwan as a "precautionary measure in case the geopolitical tension between Beijing and Taipei worsens."

“I advise the head of the Balikatan Gaming Exercise – Philippine side – let’s include in our practice next year how to evacuate using ships, vessels from Taiwan to Cagayan or Batanes in case – for contingency,” Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said in an interview.

He also reminded Ambassador Huang that the EDCA and Balikatan exercises were not intended for "any skirmishes in the Taiwan Strait," but rather for national defense.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva stated that the government must be proactive in protecting the safety and security of OFWs working abroad.

He said “to act now and come up with a contingency or a safety and security plan which includes repatriation, relocation and reintegration to prepare our OFWs in case of any eventuality, natural or otherwise.”

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III stated that the government must provide assurances that all responsible agencies are doing everything possible to defend the rights of all OFWs, not only those in Taiwan, but all Filipinos overseas, and that their welfare is their first priority.

In an interview with Radio Veritas on Monday, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People vice chairman Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos expressed optimism that providing a better life for themselves and their families would remain the priority of the 150,000 OFWs, and that they would not interfere in Taiwan-China political affairs.


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