A group of young people yesterday took the initiative to show their friendliness and appreciation for Filipino workers in Taiwan amid ongoing tensions between the two countries over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman last week by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel.
Holding up Chinese and English signs that read “I’m Taiwanese supporting Filipino workers” and “The government’s wrongdoing should not be shouldered by innocent people,” the young people stood outside St Christopher’s Church in Taipei, which has a large Filipino congregation, early yesterday morning before the first Mass in Tagalog started at 7:30am.
“There’s no organization behind us, I invited my friends to join me in the action on Facebook and they forwarded the invitation to their friends,” said Lee Chun-ta (李俊達), a graduate student who initiated the event.
He said that despite the difference in language and culture, Filipino workers are no different from Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), the Taiwanese fisherman shot dead by the PCG personnel.
“They are all hardworking people trying to make a living,” he said.
Another female demonstrator, also surnamed Lee (李), said that Filipino workers and domestic caregivers make a big contribution to Taiwan.
“Filipino workers fill up the gap in our social welfare network. They take care of our elderly and children so that people can work without worrying. They also work on assembly lines or in construction site jobs that many Taiwanese workers don’t want to do,” she said.
“Filipino workers should not shoulder responsibility for their government’s wrongdoing. It’s just like we Taiwanese wouldn’t want to be held responsible for what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) does,” Lee said.
Many Filipino workers as well as a Filipino priest stopped to express their gratitude for the support and took pictures with the students.
“I work as a domestic caregiver and my boss and his family treats me very well, so I don’t feel threatened at work,” Filipino worker Ana Baltazar said. “But I am really worried that the Taiwanese government’s policies may affect my job.”
Baltazar said she has only been working in Taiwan for five months and is worried that she may not be able to come back after her three-year contract ends.
“I came to Taiwan to work because I have no job in the Philippines, but I have two children to raise and I am separated from my husband,” Baltazar said. “I make NT$15,840 a month, but after deduction of broker and government fees, I only get a little over NT$12,000. Half of that money is wired to my family and the other half goes to repay the loan that I took out to come to Taiwan.”
Santiago Salud, a Filipino who has married a Taiwanese, said he understands the suffering of the fisherman’s family, but urged the public not to blame Filipinos in Taiwan.
“I know how the family feels because I used to be a fisherman as well and I’ve worked on a Taiwanese fishing vessel. I know how hard it is at sea,” he said.
While the Philippine government said Hung’s vessel had crossed into Philippine waters, Salud said he did not know exactly what happened, but based on his own experiences, it is not always easy to tell where a boundary is since they are not marked on the sea.
However, whatever may have happened, he said there was no justification for shooting dead an unarmed fisherman.
“But it’s the shooter that should held responsible, not all Filipinos,” Salud said.
Later in the afternoon in front of the church, Filipino workers said prayers for Hung and for friendly relations between Taiwan and the Philippines.