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China has nothing to do with OFW hiring in Taiwan, says MECO chair Bello

China has no control with the employment of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Taiwan as the latter is acting independently in hiring foreign workers, according to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on Monday.

MECO chairman Silvestre Bello III made the remark after Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said that if the Philippines cared for the OFWs in Taiwan, it should oppose Taiwan independence rather than giving the United States access to its military facilities near the Taiwan strait.

Bello, who was the former Labor Secretary, clarified that there are almost 200,000 OFWs who are currently in Taiwan, and their welfare and interest there are all “well-protected.”

He said Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor is even coordinating with the Philippines’ Department of Migrant Workers to hire more Filipino teachers and hospitality workers, and even fishermen and farmers.

“Very independent (Taiwan). China definitely has nothing to do with the employment of our overseas Filipino workers,” Bello said in an ANC interview.

“I would like to assure… na napaka-ganda ang kondisyon ng ating mga OFWs doon. Walang cause of alarm. I would be the first one to tell you kung saka-sakaling may emergency situation, pero right now, wala pong tension. Normal na normal ang Taiwan. All our Filipino community members are prepared for any exigency,” he added.

(I would like to assure you that the condition of our OFWs here in Taiwan is very good. There is no cause for alarm. I would be the first one to tell you if there is an emergency situation, but right now there is no tension. It is very normal in Taiwan now.)

Bello also stressed that he does not see any relation between the welfare and protection of the OFWs in Taiwan and the additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the Philippines.

“I don't see any relation between the new installation of EDCA sites in our country to the relationship between China and Taiwan. Whether nandiyan ang EDCA sites natin o wala [whether the EDCA sites are there or not], the fact is China has been trying to get back Taiwan. Hindi ko nakikita ang relasyon [I don’t see the relation],” he said.

Signed in 2014, the EDCA between the Philippines and US grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities and allows them to build facilities, and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels. Permanent basing, however, is prohibited.

The five existing EDCA locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.

Three of the four new EDCA sites are in the northern portion of Luzon, closer to Taiwan. These are the Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Isabela, the Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, and the Camilo Osias Naval Base, also in Cagayan.

The fourth EDCA site has been designated on Balabac island in Palawan, near the disputed South China Sea.

China's embassy in the Philippines on Sunday said Huang's remarks about OFWs in Taiwan were misquoted, misunderstood, or taken out of context.

"It is appreciated that there was extensive coverage on Ambassador Huang Xilian's speech at the 8th Manila Forum. Unfortunately some misquoted or misinterpreted Ambassador Huang's remarks or simply took part of the Ambassador's words out of context," the embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page. —KBK, GMA Integrated News