Thu, Feb 17, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Group highlights plight of Philippine workers in row

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwan’s diplomatic row with the Philippines has led one interest group to draw attention to the plight of domestic workers from the Philippines in Taiwan, arguing that they resembled “sacrificial lambs” in the bilateral spat.

Philippine domestic workers and citizens have borne the brunt of restrictions arising from the Feb. 2 deportation of 14 Taiwanese to China, which touched off a rare diplomatic muscle-flexing between Taiwan and the Philippines.

A statement by the Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns, which called itself an interest group, argued that overseas Philippine workers are the “lifeblood” of the Philippine economy, but at the same time played an important role in Taiwanese society.

“[We] find the [deportation] condemnable because the Philippine government salvages its diplomatic relations with China at the expense of its own people working in Taiwan,” the committee wrote in the statement. “On the other hand, we deplore those people in Taiwan who demand the freeze-hiring of Filipino migrants as a retaliatory move to the Philippine government’s diplomatic backlash [sic].”

Taiwan has already slapped limited punitive measures on new Philippine migrant workers, lengthening visa procedures and canceling visa-free privileges for Philippine passport holders with existing visas to the US and several other countries.

The committee’s statement contended that those measures could be “hypocritical” because of how Philippine domestic workers have helped develop the Taiwanese economy while providing care for “elderly and ill family members.”

“We believe that political diplomacy can be more beneficial if the concerns of [the Philippine] countrymen are put in the forefront,” it said.

There are, according to the most recent statistics from the Council of Labor Affairs, currently 77,538 documented Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan — with 70 percent working in manufacturing industries and another 30 percent in the domestic service.

However, there is also believed to be several thousand Philippine workers in Taiwan that remain undocumented.

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