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Pinoy Abroad

DFA assures safety of OFWs in Taiwan

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday assured the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan, saying there has been a contingency plan in place should a conflict arise there.

DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega made the assurance following the recent remarks of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian on the fate of over 200,000 OFWs in Taipei amid the strengthening ties between the Philippines and the US.

“Any diplomat will say things to advance their country’s interest,” De Vega told reporters in an interview according to a tweet of GMA Integrated News’ Ian Cruz.

“Importante ang presence ng Filipino workers abroad. (The presence of Filipino workers abroad is very important.) I don't think he meant, nobody means they are going to harm our workers. Not at all. Do they mean they won’t hire anymore?” he said.

On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy said Huang’s remarks on 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 on Facebook.

Huang on Friday said China has “advised” the Philippines to oppose Taiwan’s independence instead of offering the US access to its military facilities near the Taiwan strait if the administration cared for the 150,000 OFWs in Taiwan.

“The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan Independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs,” he said.

Signed in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and US grants American 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.

The Department of National Defense, for its part, has “took exception” to the envoy’s claim that the Philippines is “stoking the fire” with EDCA, while National Security Council spokesperson Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya clarified that “the Philippines has no intention of interfering in the Taiwan issue and will not allow itself to be used by other countries to interfere in the said issue.”

Senator Risa Hontiveros has called for Malacañang to tell Beijing to recall its ambassador. — Sundy Locus/RSJ, GMA Integrated News