Mon, Jun 03, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Diplomatic row ‘must not affect peoples exchanges’

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan and the Philippines should not let their diplomatic spat affect the exchanges between their peoples, a Taiwanese film director has said.

“I believe that more exchanges in the fields of culture, arts and sports are needed in times of clashes, because they help people from the two sides understand each other,” said Jasmine Lee (李靖惠), whose 2011 documentary Money and Honey (麵包情人) depicts the lives of Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan.

“I believe right now we are in a lose-lose situation,” Lee said in a recent interview, referring to Taiwan’s decision to suspend all exchange activities with the Philippines.

As part of that decision, the Philippine men’s national basketball team was this year not invited to participate in the Jones Cup, an annual invitational tournament held in Taiwan.

The diplomatic rift was sparked by the killing of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) by Philippine Coast Guard personnel on May 9.

The Taiwanese government has instituted a series of retaliatory measures against the Philippines, including a freeze on new hirings of Filipino workers and a travel alert for the Philippines. High-level exchanges and exchanges in business, trade and technology research have also been suspended.

Lee urged the Philippines to apologize, and said politicians and the media on both sides should “return to rational communication” and not allow the incident to hurt cultural and sports exchanges.

“These Filipino athletes could become Taiwan’s allies or even pressure their own government into treating Taiwan well if Taiwanese maintain exchanges with them,” said Lee, who spent 13 years filming Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan.

Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Communication Design at Dayeh University, said the biggest victims of the diplomatic incident are Taiwanese fishermen and Filipino workers.

She said she hopes the dispute can be settled soon in such a way that the labor freeze on Filipinos can be lifted and talks on fishing rights can begin, to the benefit of the two groups that she described as disadvantaged.

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