MANILA, Philippines - As Taipei warms to President Aquino’s seeking forgiveness for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman three months ago, doors have begun to open for more Filipinos seeking jobs in Taiwan.
This was according to Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) chairman Amadeo Perez, who revealed that Taiwan is set to process around 1,000 visas on Monday.
“Taiwan government will hire more Filipinos to work as the sanctions were lifted last Thursday night,” Perez said upon his arrival from Taiwan at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 yesterday afternoon.
He said visa processing began as soon as reports came out that Aquino’s message of “deep regret and apology” was accepted by the fisherman’s family.
“What a relief on our part when the wife and daughter of slain fisherman Hung Shih-Cheng accepted the letter of apology,” Perez said. Filipinos, he said, were highly favored in Taiwan because of their talent and dedication to work.
Shortly after Taipei voiced its satisfaction over President Aquino’s apology, Perez – along with MECO managing director Antonio Basilio and director Manuel Dimaculangan – took a train to Taiwan’s foreign ministry to officially push for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Philippines after the shooting.
That night, the foreign ministry announced in a press conference the lifting of sanctions, which included a ban on hiring new Filipino workers, an advisory urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of trade and academic exchanges.
It said the Taiwan government was pleased with the message of apology, with Premier Jiang Yi-Huah calling it a “constructive response.”
“We did it for our countrymen, especially for some 90,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan,” Dimaculangan said, referring to efforts to appease Taipei.
“We’re back to normal,” said Basilio.
Perez told The STAR that 3,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan stand to lose their jobs every month if the family of 65-year-old fisherman Hung ignored Aquino’s letter of apology.
Recruitment agencies have expressed elation at the development.
Angelo Tong, president of the Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan Inc. (PILMAT), said they expect a surge of deployment of Filipino workers to Taiwan in the coming days.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said it is optimistic the country’s relations with Taiwan are returning to normal following the apology.
“Hopefully these recent developments will contribute to the resolution of the issue and will return relations to normal,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message to Palace reporters yesterday.
She was referring to the President’s message of apology delivered personally by Perez to the family of Hung in Taiwan’s Pingtung county. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the Philippine had “expressed its goodwill and apology both in writing and in deed.”
Valte also said they were confident the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) would remain committed to its mandate of guarding the country’s maritime borders even if eight of its men were facing homicide charges for the killing of Hung during a sea chase near Batanes last May 9.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recommended on Wednesday the filing of charges, saying the PCG crew violated the rules of engagement and used “deadly force” in dealing with Hung and his companions.
“We are certain that our PCG will remain vigilant in guarding our waters and will observe the rules of engagement to avoid a similar incident,” she said, adding the NBI showed “complete impartiality and without regard to external pressure” when it came up with the recommendation.
In a message conveyed by the MECO chief to Hung’s family, Aquino expressed “deep regret and apology” for the fisherman’s death. Perez, for his part, told Hung’s family of his “undiminished sorrow” over the death despite his being unable to relay the President’s own message of apology when he came to Taiwan last May, 15 days after the killing.
The Taiwanese fisherman’s daughter – Hung Tzu-ching – had earlier revealed Manila’s commitment to apologize to her family. “We insist the representative must represent the Filipino government,” she said.
Meanwhile, Perez said Taiwanese prosecutors may encounter “legal complications” if they insist on filing separate homicide charges against the eight in Taiwan.
In an interview over dzBB, Perez said the case to be filed in the Philippines against the eight should take precedence over the one being prepared in Taiwan.
“We have no extradition treaty with Taiwan,” he said in Filipino.
In the absence of such treaty, Taiwanese courts cannot compel the Filipinos to attend hearings in Taiwan, he said.
The PCG, for its part, said it respects the move of Taiwan to file homicide charges against eight of its men.
“That is their right, that is according to their law and we respect that,” PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said yesterday.
When asked if the eight would be made to stand trial in Taiwan, Balilo said: “We have yet to find out. We would consult with our lawyers first.”
He said lawyers from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas have offered to help defend the eight PCG men in court.
Facing homicide charges are commanding officer Arnold de la Cruz, Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz, Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Reynold Aurello, and Seamen 1st Class Edrando Quiapo Aguila, Mhelvin Bendo, Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo, Sunny Galang Masangcay, and Henry Baco Solomon. – With Evelyn Macairan, Pia Lee-Brago