With relations between Taiwan and the Philippines deadlocked over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine coast guard personnel in May, both the government and private enterprises have begun seeking new sources of foreign workers, according to local media reports.
Taiwan imposed a freeze on the hiring of Philippine workers as part of sanctions over a Philippine patrol vessel’s strafing of Taiwanese fishing boat the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 on May 9 that resulted in the death of one of its crew members, 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).
As the contracts of 30,000 Philippine workers currently in Taiwan will expire by the end of this year, both the government and corporations, especially those in the technology sector, have begun mulling steps to cope with the situation, the report said.
Lin San-quei (林三貴), director-general of the Council of Labor Affairs’ Employment and Vocational Training Administration, said his office is considering opening the job market to English-speaking countries, such as Sri Lanka, or countries with a large working-age population, such as Myanmar.
Lin said some local technology companies have imported relatively well-educated Vietnamese workers in the past two months to meet their urgent manpower needs.
“To my knowledge, a major local smartphone manufacturing company has imported Vietnamese workers to fill oppositions left vacant by Filipinos after their working contracts expired,” Lin said.
He said the council would send delegations to visit several major labor exporting countries, especially English-speaking countries, after the current provisional legislative session ends later this month.
Besides the hiring freeze, Taiwan has also imposed other economic sanctions on the Philippines, including the suspension visits by Philippine officials, and all investment and trade promotion activities.
The Taiwan External Trade Development Council has also shelved its plan to open a trade office in Manila.
Bureau of Foreign Trade Deputy Director-General Cynthia Kiang (江文若) said private business groups have continued their trade promotion tours of the Philippines.
Citing reports from Taiwan’s representative office in Manila, Kiang said Taiwan-owned ventures in the Philippines have not been affected by the current diplomatic row between the two countries.
The Philippines is Taiwan’s 12th-largest trading partner, its seventh-largest export market and the 25th-largest source of imports.
Taiwan exported US$8.88 billion of goods to the Philippines last year, or 2.95 percent of overall exports.
Shen Kuo-jung (沈國榮), vice chairman of the Allied Association for Science Park Industries, said local technology companies have begun to feel the pinch due to the hiring freeze. At present, more than 9,000 foreign workers are employed at companies in the nation’s three science parks, Shen said, adding that 90 percent of the 4,500 foreign workers at the Hsinchu Science Park are from the Philippines.
Shen said that local high-tech companies like to hire Filipinos because they tend to be better educated and more fluent in English. Nonetheless, local companies would not pressure the government to soften its stance on the issue, Shen said, adding that he hopes the government will consider opening the door to workers from Myanmar and Cambodia.
While the number of foreign workers in Taiwan surged to a new high of 463,000 as at the end of June, the number of Filipinos employed in the manufacturing sector had declined to 64,000 from a high of about 66,000 at the end of May, Council of Labor Affairs data showed.