Fri, Nov 15, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Helping Manila is moral, strategic

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

Typhoon Haiyan, a monster storm that hit the Philippines last week, brought death and destruction to Taiwan’s neighbor to the south on an unprecedented scale.

After the typhoon struck, the international community, including Taiwan, sprang into action to provide emergency relief goods, including dried foods, blankets and tents.

Taiwan has experience with major disasters, such as the 921 Earthquake in 1999 and Typhoon Morakot in August 2009, which destroyed whole villages in the south of the nation.

Taiwan knows what it is like to be the victim of natural disasters and was the grateful recipient of foreign assistance in those times.

This is a good opportunity for Taiwan to show that it is a good neighbor to the Philippines, to give generously and provide all the help it can. It is at times like this that people can show their best side by assisting a neighbor in need.

Some of the public may still feel resentment toward the Philippines because of the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), who was shot by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in the countries’ overlapping territorial waters earlier this year.

However, that issue was resolved by both sides agreeing to a compromise, and Taiwanese should move on and realize the incredible scale of the disaster that has struck the Philippines.

This is the moment for Taiwan to do everything it can to assist the people in stricken areas of the Philippines.

This is in the longer-term strategic interest of the nation.

The Philippines is, like Taiwan, a free and democratic nation. The two share many values, such as democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and respect for individual freedoms. These values and freedoms do not come automatically: They are threatened every day from within by neglect, as well as by vested economic and political interests.

In contrast, there is China, a country that does not respect those values and freedoms.

China has yet to offer more than meager assistance to the Philippines after the typhoon, while other countries in the region, such as Japan, are providing aid on a much larger scale, commensurate with the intensity of the disaster itself.

In the years to come, Taiwan needs to make sure it stands on the same side as the Philippines and other democracies, such as Japan and South Korea, when facing the threat to its existence as a free and democratic nation posed by China.

Helping the Philippines in its hour of need will cement a bond between future generations of Taiwanese and Filipinos.

Nat Bellocchi served as chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan from 1990 to 1995. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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