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Fri, May 19, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Tien pledeges openness in Taipei-Manila air dispute

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) warned yesterday that continued acrimony with the Philippines could possibly lead Taiwanese investors to pull out of that country and said he supported the outgoing government's decision to halt the new introduction of Philippine labor beginning June 1.

Tien suggested that the new government would be "very open" to initiatives by Manila to restore direct air links, currently suspended for the second time since last October.

"We are very open to whatever Manila might have in mind, if they decide to restore the kind of good relations we have had until very recently," Tien told a group of foreign reporters.

Despite a recent drop in Taiwanese tourists to the Philippines, the new foreign minister said there should be no reason why the flow of tourists and investment would be further slowed once the two sides resolve the air traffic issue.

However, he warned that if the aviation dispute lasts any longer, "there will be even less incentive for our industries to go to the Philippines and for some businesses already based in that country, they might be thinking about the possibility of getting out in light of the inconvenience involved."

Tien cited the rise in demand for labor from other Southeast Asian countries and the income disparity in central and southern Taiwan as reasons for curtailing Philippine laborers.

"Please don't think we are thinking about leverage alone in these matters," Tien said.

However, he added that bilateral relations between the countries should be "mutually beneficial," and "we expect other countries to reciprocate friendly efforts."

Some 112,800 workers from the Philippines make up the second largest group of foreign laborers to Taiwan, making up 37.4 percent of the foreign work force.

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