Labor to envoy: Don’t drag OFWs into row over Taiwan


A LABOR group called on China to use “peaceful and diplomatic” means instead of resorting to “veiled threats” to resolve its issue with Taiwan.

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) issued the statement after Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said in a forum last week that granting the United States access to the country’s military bases could compromise the safety of about 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan.

“The Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs,” Huang said during a forum on Friday hosted by a non-government group of Filipino and Chinese businessmen and academics.

Huang was referring to the country’s four new approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites with the US.

The pronouncement from the Chinese official drew reactions from lawmakers and various groups, including FFW, and even from Presidential Legal Counsel and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“His veiled threat against our OFWs in Taiwan is unacceptable, reprehensible, and a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and the ILO Convention 97, which guarantee protection to migrant workers,” FFW said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Federation of Free Workers urges the Chinese envoy in Manila to exercise caution in making statements that may negatively impact the safety and well-being of overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan,” it added.

Rather than using such threats, FFW President Sonny Matula said “exhaust all peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve conflicts with other countries.”

“The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, we adopt the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land,” Matula said.

FFW also backed the position of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Enrile that China should respect the country’s sovereign right to cooperate with the US, which resulted in the approval of the new EDCA sites.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. earlier assured the public that the new EDCA sites will not be used for “offensive actions,” but only for logistics purposes.

The Department of National Defense (DND) also reiterated that the country is not interfering with China’s internal issue with Taiwan.

China has recently adopted a tougher stance on the self-governing Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with US lawmakers, including House speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.

OFWs will continue to work–Risa

For her part, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said, “Our OFWs in Taiwan will continue to work where they work. End of story. Filipinos will thrive and make a living according to our wishes. We will never let Beijing decide on the future of Filipino families. Their destiny is not in China’s hands.”

She urged Malacañang to tell Beijing to recall their representative in Manila, adding, “he has no business being a diplomat if he is unable to engage with us in a respectful and dignified manner.”

Hotiveros added: “The Philippines will never interfere with the issue of Taiwanese independence. That is exclusively for the people of Taiwan to tackle. We, in the Philippines, respect the right of the Taiwanese people to self-determination, and this right must be upheld by all other nations that share this planet, even including the autocratic regime of China.”