October 14, 2019 at 10:20 pm
Rey E. Requejo
The Taiwan government is seeking enhanced mutual cooperation and ties with the Philippines in the areas of trade, investment, agriculture, health, tourism among others, despite Manila’s standing “one China policy,” which limits the latter’s cooperation to cultural and economic affairs.
In his speech during Taiwan’s 108th National Day celebration held last week at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Ambassador Michael Peiyung Hsu said he is looking forward for the strong and enduring relationship between Taipei and Manila.
“Taiwan is seeking to further enhance mutual cooperation and ties with the Philippines and across Southeast Asia, and with the implementation of the New Southbound Policy, we have made important progress in expanding exchanges in such areas as trade, investment, agriculture, health, tourism, environment, disaster prevention, and higher education,” Peiyung Hsu said.
Under the country’s diplomatic statute called the “One China Policy,” which was adopted in 1975, the Philippines would only recognize China as the sovereign state that resulted to downgraded ties with Taiwan to cultural and economic affairs.
The One China Policy precludes Manila from cooperating with Taipei in the area of defense, diplomacy, and policy. It could, however, engage in trade, tourism, education, culture and technological exchanges.
The Philippine government created an administrative office called Manila Economic and Cultural Office, now headed by Chairman Angelito “Lito” Banayo, to manage the Philippine-Taiwanese affairs. MECO’s counterpart in the Philippines is the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office headed by Ambassador Peiyung Hsu.
Peiyung Hsu emphasized that the close bond and friendship between Taipei and Manila “is a major factor behind Taiwan’s outstanding growth and development over the past year.”
He noted that from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 this year, more than 330,000 Filipino tourists visited Taiwan, representing an increase of 14 percent over the same period last year.
“Our target is 500,000 by the end of this year, and I urge all of you to take advantage of our program giving Filipinos two-week visa-free entry into Taiwan,” Peiyung Hsu revealed.
“You probably already know about Taiwan’s delicious food, beautiful scenery, plentiful shopping, and friendly people. But if you are not able to travel, Taiwan is coming to you—with Acer and Asus computers, bubble tea shops, and dumplings from Din Tai Fung. Taiwan embraces you in the Philippines too,” he said.
According to him, Taiwanese government’s efforts to transform Taiwan’s industry since 2016 have yielded considerable success.
In terms of competitiveness, he said, Taiwan was ranked 13th in the world and fourth in Asia last year by the World Economic Forum, which also named Taiwan one of the world’s super innovators alongside to Germany, Switzerland and the United States.
Meanwhile, overseas investment in Taiwan has increased significantly over the past year, with Supermicro, Google, Honda and Microsoft all announcing expansions of their operations in Taiwan. “And through last month, overseas Taiwanese companies had moved 966 billion pesos in capital back to Taiwan, creating over 28,500 jobs,” he said.
The TECO chief recognized the contributions of the 150,000 overseas Filipino workers, to Taiwan’s impressive development, saying it would not be possible without the Filipino nationals who work in Taiwan and contribute to our society.
“These enterprising Filipinos sacrifice so much for their families, but it was with shock and sadness that I learned of a number of Filipino fishermen who were killed or injured in the collapse of a bridge in Yilan last week,” he said.
“On behalf of the government and people of Taiwan, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of these fishermen, and I assure you that our government is doing everything in its power to make sure those affected are given necessary care and assistance,” he added.
As far as the TECO’s official cooperation this year, Peiyung Hsu said they started working with the Department of Agriculture to build a button mushroom demonstration farm in Baguio, and they are expecting first harvest by the end of this month. “Our next step is to expand this model to other parts of the Philippines.”
In support of the Bangon Marawi initiative, he said the Taiwan government is working with the Philippine government and the Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation to build 400 housing units in the region.
“Hualien Tzu-Chi Hospital is holding educational forums and training medical personnel in the Philippines under our One Country, One Center project to share medical expertise,” he added.
In the area of higher education exchanges, TECO held the 2019 Taiwan-Philippines University Presidents’ Forum in Kaohsiung this past July to discuss approaches for further cooperation.
“Taiwan continues to work with NGOs such as World Vision, the Tzu-Chi Foundation, and Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps to provide support to disadvantaged groups in the Philippines. These are concrete examples of our efforts to advance people-centered relations with the Philippines,” the TECO official said.
“This is my third posting in Manila. Some ask me why I keep coming back here. It is because the Philippines has a special place in my heart. I truly believe that by working together, Taiwan and the Philippines can further our mutual interests and enhance the welfare of our peoples, and I know that I can count on your support in this endeavor,” the Taiwan official said, adding that “let us all look forward to another fruitful and successful year for the strong and enduring relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines.”