Marcos on China envoy’s warning: Lost in translation?

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos on China envoy�s warning: Lost in translation?
Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian signs the guest book during the celebration of the International Chinese Language Day at the Jose Abad Santos High School in Binondo, Manila yesterday.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos wants clarification from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over his remarks on Filipinos in Taiwan, saying he was “a little surprised” by the envoy’s comments.

In a media interview in Bulacan yesterday, Marcos was asked to comment on Huang’s remark last week in which the ambassador warned that the safety and security of 150,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan could be in jeopardy if Manila would not oppose Taiwan independence and refuse US access to Philippine bases.

“We were all a little surprised, but I just put it down to the difference in language,” the President said.

“I believe – I interpret it as him trying to say that you should not – Philippines do not provoke or intensify the tensions because it will impact badly on the Filipinos in… Well that’s why – that’s how I take it,” he said.

Huang earlier “advised” Manila to oppose “Taiwan independence” if it genuinely cares about the 150,000 Filipinos working there.

The Chief Executive said he would talk to Huang about the issue soon, noting that English is not the envoy’s first language.

“I think there must have been an element of lost in translation. It’s not his – English is not his first language, but I’m very interested to know what it is that he meant,” he said.

“But I’ll be talking to the ambassador soon. And I’m sure he will be – I’m sure he’ll be very anxious to give his own interpretation of what he was trying to say,” Marcos said.

Addressing the 8th Manila Forum of the Association for Philippine-China Understanding on April 14, Huang said: “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 (overseas Filipino workers) (in Taiwan).”

He also noted that Manila’s “announcement of the four additional EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) sites has caused widespread and grave concern among Chinese people.”


Following the backlash over the remarks, the Chinese embassy in Manila claimed on Monday that Huang was “misquoted or misinterpreted” by the media.

“Unfortunately, some misquoted or misinterpreted Ambassador Huang’s remarks or simply took part of the Ambassador’s words out of context,” it said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has called on Malacañang to ask Beijing to recall its ambassador, branding Huang’s remarks as “disgraceful statements.”

Sen. Raffy Tulfo described the statements as “unacceptable” and admonished Huang for “bullying our innocent OFWs in Taiwan to order us to do what they want.”

“To our kababayan in Taiwan, don’t worry. We will never abandon you,” he added.

In a more appeasing tone, Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos, vice chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI), vouched for OFWs in Taiwan as being apolitical.

“Our sea- and land-based migrants are apolitical. Their concern is not politics nor social issues in those receiving countries,” Santos said in a statement.

“Receiving countries should not be worried about them, for they will never be involved in the internal political affairs of their host countries,” the prelate added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said no Filipino in Taiwan is seeking government help for repatriation as yet amid current cross-strait tensions.

The DFA has also reassured the public that contingency plans have been in place in areas where there is a high concentration of Filipino workers, including Taiwan.

Huang dodges issue

Yesterday, Huang attended the International Chinese Language Day event at the Jose Abad Santos High School in Binondo but kept mum on the howl caused by his remarks.

The ambassador, who was welcomed by House Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno and school officials at the event, gave a speech that noted how more Filipinos are studying the Chinese language.

Reporters at the scene asked him about the advice he gave the Philippine government and the consequence he raised regarding Filipinos working in Taiwan, but Huang dodged the questions.

He instead said the friendship between China and the Philippines, which he noted have lasted for centuries, should be “cherished.” – Ghio Ong, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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