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Hontiveros discusses China's incursions in WPS, independence with Taiwan president

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros on Friday discussed with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea and the latter's stance on Taiwan’s independence.

Hontiveros’ meeting with the Taiwan president was part of her efforts to lead legislative proposals that seek to promote peace in the region.

In a statement, the senator said the meeting was also intended to discuss the legislative roadmap that she will recommend in the Senate to strengthen security, economic, and labor relations in the region amid China’s aggression in the WPS and in the South China Sea.

“While I am here in Taiwan to particularly check on the overseas Filipino workers who were threatened by the Chinese Ambassador’s dangerous statements, I cannot help but raise an urgent issue that looms large over the Philippines – the external threat posed by China in our territories, a similar dilemma Taiwan also faces,” she said.

During the meeting, Hontiveros shared to the Taiwan president China’s frequent intimidation, threat, and harassment against the Philippine Coast Guard and Filipino fisherfolk which deprived them of their livelihood especially since Chinese vessels are constantly driving them off and at times even confiscating their catch.

“Like President Tsai, I would like a peaceful approach to the South China Sea question. I will work on taking tangible steps in the Philippine legislature to ensure that we successfully discuss and conduct diplomatic, legal, and respectful negotiations with all States concerned to advance peace and stability in the entire South China Sea,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros said the Philippines will never interfere with the issue of Taiwan’s independence but vowed that she will support nations who “err on the side of democracy.”

“We know that democracy is a powerful vaccine against armed conflict, as it requires fostering peaceful relations among citizens. When carried into the realm of foreign policy, this will result in peaceful international relations not only among our nations, but also across the world,” the senator said.

“Peace is necessary for the safety and security of all our citizens. Peace is essential for our economies to survive and thrive. Peace is our only option. With the continued and strengthened ties between the Philippines and Taiwan, I trust that true and lasting peace will reign,” she added.

On Thursday, Hontiveros also met with Taiwan Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu to reaffirm her commitment to a peaceful resolution in the WPS.

“Unlike China, who has been employing tactics that employ force short of war, we can genuinely and diplomatically engage with Taiwan in order to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Taiwan has been a good and responsible friend to the Philippines, and in the face of a common bully, friends tend to stick with each other,” the senator said.

“As a member of the Senate, the treaty-making body of our legislature, I will continually work with nations such as Taiwan, with whom we share the same values of freedom and democracy, to uphold and maintain the relative peace our region has so far enjoyed,” she added.

According to her statement, Hontiveros and the Taiwan foreign minister also agreed that international relations among democratic nations must be strengthened in order to resist China’s aggressive actions.

“While the Philippines does not yet have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, constant cooperation is needed as both countries confront similar challenges, from cybersecurity to climate change. It is also in the interest of our country to deepen people to people exchanges with Taiwan, whether through tourism or overseas employment,” she said.

Hontiveros visited Taiwan after China advised the Philippines to oppose Taiwan independence if it cares for the 150,000 overseas Filipino workers in the East Asian country.

The lawmaker had a dialogue with some of the OFWs in Taiwan to check on their welfare and working conditions.

“The foreign minister himself acknowledged that migrant workers such as our OFWs are crucial in the economic development of his country. Our OFWs, in turn, are able to share in the prosperity of Taiwanese society and help improve the lives of their families back home. For this economic growth to benefit our countries, we must do all we can to preserve peace,” the senator said.—Hana Bordey/AOL, GMA Integrated News