Roque stands by 'Taiwan, part of China' remark

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Roque stands by 'Taiwan, part of China' remark
The Taipei 101 dominates the Taipei skyline in this February 2020 file photo.
The STAR / Joanne Rae Ramirez

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday stood by his previous statement that Taiwan is part of China despite protest from Taipei.

Roque made the statement in light of a government attempt to "deport" an OFW in Taiwan's Yunlin County over social media posts critical of the government and which Taiwanese officials have said should go through the proper legal procedures.

"We have always had one position with this regard, together with other countries in the world," Roque said.

The majority of nations—including the Philippines since 1975—observes the "One China" policy, which recognizes the People's Republic of China as the legitimate government of China. Relations with Taiwan, which has its own government, are done through de fact embassies like the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and its counterpart Taipei Economic and Cultural Offce.

"I'll leave it at that," Roque, who stressed on Wednesday that the matter of "deporting" Filipina caregiver Elanel Egot Ordidor is up to Taiwan, which he said is "part of China."

"It's really a decision to be made by Taiwanese authorities, which forms part of China. We leave that wholly to the jurisdiction of Taiwan and China," he said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel.

As reported by Taiwan state media, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced Roque's pronouncement that China has a say on any deportation proceedings in Taiwan.

"My country expresses strong dissatisfaction and high regret over Philippine government officials wrongly accusing Taiwan as part of China," Taiwan MOFA spokesperson Joanne Ou said. 

READ: DOLE wants Pinay caregiver deported over anti-Duterte posts

"China has never ruled Taiwan for one day, and only the popularly elected Taiwan government can represent the country's 23 million people internationally," she added.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed our representative office in the Philippines to immediately negotiate with the Philippines to express their protests. We solemnly call on the government officials of the Philippines to face up to the facts and stop misrepresenting Taiwan as a part of China," Ou was quoted as saying by Taiwanese state media.

Labor attaché Fidel Macauyag, according to a Department of Labor and Employment press release last week, had moved to deport Ordidor over her "nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte."

MECO has denied that Manila has requested any deportation proceedings and has had to apologize to Taiwan's MOFA over what he said was a mistake in the wording of the DOLE release.

In early February, the government included Taiwan in a travel ban on arrivals from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. The government justified the inclusion by saying the World Health Organization also considers Taiwan as part of China. 

The government lifted the ban on arrivals from Taiwan days later but not before Taipei protested the inclusion.

Relations between Taiwan and the Philippines—whose formal diplomatic ties have long been severed—are still recovering from an earlier travel ban imposed by Manila after an initial ban on mainland China was also called to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

READ: Duterte: I love Xi Jinping

'Harassment is not DOLE's job'

In a statement issued Sunday, Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, slammed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taiwan.

“Since when did harassment and intimidation of our OFWs became part of the Labor Attaché’s job description? Have they now transformed into the attack dogs of the Duterte administration against its critics overseas?” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“OFWs and our families especially in this time of COVID-19 crisis need timely and sufficient financial assistance plus moral and material support from the government,” she added.

READ: DOLE hit for policing Taiwan OFW's Facebook posts

"The Duterte government, DOLE, and POLO-Taiwan officials can make themselves useful by delivering these essential services instead of acting like state-paid goons."

According to statistics from Taiwan's Ministry of Labor at the end of December 2019, the country hosts 157,000 Filipinos, most of whom were affected by the travel ban to their own motherland.

Taiwan news reports say that Ou also highlighted that foreign workers in Taiwan would not be deported for so long as they did not violate Taiwanese laws and regulations since they "are protected by relevant laws and regulations, including freedom of speech."

Duterte against COVID-19

Duterte has claimed in recent night-time addresses that the Philippines was the first country in Asia to implement a "lockdown" to stop the spread of the virus.

However, there had been public clamor to bar arrivals from China in light of the COVID-19 epidemic in parts of it long before the government announced a travel ban on "Hubei province of China where the nCoV originated, as well as in other places in China where there is a spread of the disease" on January 31.

As it stands, many of the country's poorest—including OFWs like Ordidor—are still waiting to receive government subsidies meant to support them while most businesses are shut down or on limited operations due to the lockdown.

RELATED: Cash aid received by most LGUs but has reached few target beneficiaries, Duterte tells Congress

At Thursday morning's Laging Handa Briefing, DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño said that the department would be investigating instances of late aid. 

"All mayors have been doubling time after the SAP distribution deadline was announced. We will investigate why some are not delivered immediately Our people really need it, because they have been home for a few days," he said.

Rights advocates have noted that "persecution against those who violate quarantine and criticize government action [and] policy" has been a common trend across Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. — with reports from Jonathan de Santos

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