Amid rising tensions between Taiwan and the Philippines, rights advocacy groups yesterday urged the public to refrain from verbally or physically attacking Filipinos living in Taiwan.
“It’s not just Filipinos; all immigrants from Southeast Asia in the country would feel threatened when walking on the streets,” TransAsia Sisterhood Taiwan executive secretary Ly Vuoch-heang (李佩香), who is an immigrant from Cambodia, told a news conference in Taipei.
“I’ve not been attacked, because I’m from Cambodia, but I don’t feel comfortable when people keep asking me whether I’m from the Philippines when I’m just going to buy lunch,” she said.
Tensions between Taiwan and the Philippines have been on the rise since Philippine Coast Guard personnel on May 9 opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat, killing a fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).
While the two countries have not been successful in reaching an agreement in dealing with the aftermath, a seemingly anti-Philippine sentiment has been developing among the public in Taiwan. Some communities have held rallies saying that they do not welcome Filipinos, vendors in a market in Changhua County posted signs saying that they would not conduct business with Filipinos and, most recently, a Filipino migrant worker in Greater Tainan was attacked on Thursday by four people whose identities are not known.
“It’s not right to vent anger you may feel toward the Philippine government on Filipino migrant workers — when you even think about attacking these hard workers, please think of their contribution to Taiwan’s economy,” Taiwan International Workers’ Association policy researcher Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮) said.
Chen accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of attempting to encourage people to vent their anger on Filipino workers as he has become a target of criticism for mishandling of the incident, “otherwise he would not have waited until now to ask people not to do so.”
Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns convener Hsia Hsiao-chuan (夏曉鵑) said that Philippine migrant workers are also victims of their own government.
“More than 100 political dissidents have been murdered since Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office,” she said. “Filipinos are also victims of their own government, hence they should not be regarded as the same as the Philippine government.”
On Wednesday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安), who hails from the same constituency in Pingtung County as Hung, said on his Facebook page that “the perpetrator who fired on our fishing boat is the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, not the Filipinos. We must not vent our anger on innocent Philippine nationals in Taiwan, because doing so would only result in a deepening animosity.”
“These vulnerable Filipino workers have been doing their duty. They were not the thugs who initiated the shooting,” Pan said.
A number of netizens echoed Pan’s call by urging the public not to use Philippine nationals as scapegoats, nor to complicate the matter.
Meanwhile, some netizens and Pingtung-based Filipinos dismissed allegations of victimization in their area.
“Over the past decades, the nation has seen quite a few fishermen from Pingtung’s Donggang Township (東港) being detained and even killed by the Philippines. Yet, has anyone ever seen a Filipino being chased down and beaten on the streets of Donggang?” a netizen wrote.
A Filipino spouse in Pingtung’s Chaojhou Township (潮州), who identified herself as Lin Li-na (林麗娜), said all her co-workers were easygoing and friendly toward her.
Chen Chi-lan (陳季嵐), proprietor of the restaurant where Lin worksw, said Lin had a positive work attitude and always managed to finish her work, no matter how demanding it was.
“She is optimistic and constantly has a smile on her face, and really gets along well with her colleagues,” Chen said.
He added that despite their indignation over the shooting and the escalating diplomatic row between Taipei and Manila, Lin’s relationship with her peers was not affected.
Additional reporting by Wu Liang-yi and Cheng Shu-ting