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Chinese ambassador’s remark about OFWs ‘misinterpreted,’ says embassy

China's embassy in the Philippines said its ambassador Huang Xilian's remarks about overseas Filipino workers (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," it said in a statement on its Facebook page on Sunday.

At the event last Friday, Huang said that the "Taiwan question" is "entirely China's affair," but that the United States wants to "interfere" in the situation and take advantage of the inclusion of four more military sites in the Philippines in the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 

"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.

To "set the record straight," the embassy provided two links to a transcript of Huang's remarks, one in Chinese and the other in English.

The English transcript, posted on the embassy website, said that these were Huang's words regarding the OFWs in Taiwan:

Some tried to find excuse for the new EDCA sites by citing the safety of the 150,000 OFWs in Taiwan, while China is the last country that wishes to see conflict over the Strait because people on both sides are Chinese. But we will not renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is to guard against external interference and all separatist activities. 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.

Senator Risa Hontiveros has called for Malacañang to tell Beijing to recall its envoy. 

"How dare he threaten us," she said in a statement on Sunday. "Our OFWs in Taiwan will continue to work where they work. End of story. Filipinos will thrive and make a living according to our wishes. We will never let Beijing decide on the future of Filipino families. Their destiny is not in China’s hands."

The Department of National Defense also "took exception" to Huang's saying 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.”

“[W]e take grave exception to any effort by guests in our country to use this to fearmonger and intimidate us,” he said. 

China has repeatedly criticized EDCA, saying that Washington was "endangering regional peace and stability" with the expansion of the US-Philippines pact to cover nine sites around the country from the original five. It also said that "many insightful people in the Philippines" worry that the added sites "may draw their country into the whirlpool of a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait."

China views the democratic, self-ruled island as its own territory and has vowed to take it back, by force if necessary. Last week, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen met with US Speaker Kevin McCarthy, China launched three days of military exercises around Taiwan in which it practiced encircling it and sealing it off. — BM, GMA Integrated News