A Taipei-based Filipino priest yesterday urged the media not to sensationalize reports about the Taiwan-Philippines diplomatic row, saying that doing so would create hostility between people from the two nations.
The Taiwanese are a peace-loving people, Father Nilo Mantilla from St. Christopher’s Church in Taipei told reporters after being interviewed by Filipino reporters who came to Taiwan to learn more about the May 9 killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
Mantilla called on the media not to sensationalize reports about Taiwanese people mistreating Filipinos “because it creates confusion. It creates animosity. It creates fear.”
“If the report is so objective, real, then the situation will calm down. It will just die down,” he said, adding that reports about Filipinos not being allowed to enter restaurants or buy things in markets in Taiwan were “unconfirmed.”
“I still believe in the goodness, the friendliness of the Taiwanese people,” he said.
The priest said he hopes not to see such reports again because the Philippines and Taiwan enjoy a close and “symbiotic” relationship. Filipinos working in Taiwan benefit Taiwan’s economy, he added.
Despite admitting that he was also afraid and minimized his movements outdoors after tension escalated between the two countries, the priest added: “So far so good. I have not experienced bad things.”
He said Filipinos have prayed for the dead fisherman and his bereaved family, adding that the Philippines and Taiwan should settle the dispute, and that Taiwanese employers should treat their Filipino workers as before.
There have been concerns that anti-Philippine sentiment in Taiwan over the attack and the perception that Manila has not been forthcoming or sincere in responding to it could lead to discrimination or even attacks against the roughly 87,000 Filipinos working in the nation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Council of Labor Affairs officials have told Filipinos that their rights and interests will be protected, the ministry said.
The rights of Filipino workers should not be affected by the incident, and under the principle of reciprocity and friendly relations between the two nations, “we should treat every worker in Taiwan well,” senior ministry official Franklin Chen said.
The incident has received considerable attention from the media in Taiwan and the Philippines.
About 10 representatives from three Philippine television networks and the Inquirer newspaper are in Taiwan to cover the dispute.
They have visited the family of the deceased fisherman in Pingtung County and have taken photographs of the damaged boat, said Nancy Carvajal of the Inquirer, adding that they were scheduled to meet officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Fisheries Agency.
Asked about what she has found in Taiwan over the past few days that is different to what she heard in the Philippines, Carvajal declined to comment, saying only that she came to “collect facts and report.”
Michelle Mediana, a reporter with Philippine television network TV5, said her team had come because it wanted to find out the truth about the incident and the situation of Filipinos in Taiwan.
She also declined to comment further.
Renalyn Malacad Salazar, a 24-year-old Filipino working in a factory in northern Taiwan, said she had some safety concerns after the incident, but recognized the government’s efforts to assure Filipinos of their safety.
Government officials, including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), have urged the people of Taiwan not to vent their anger on Filipinos. This has eased their concerns, she added.
She also expressed concern about Taiwan’s moratorium on hiring Filipino workers, which is one of a number of sanctions against Manila over its handling of the shooting.
“It’s really hard for us,” she said, adding that Taiwan is a nice country to work in.