MECO: Pinoys in Taiwan well protected

Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) chief, former Labor Secretary  Silvestre Bello III (left) has assured the situation in Taiwan remains normal and measures are in place to protect the estimated 160,000 Filipinos on the island.

Bello said despite the tensions and recent developments over the Taiwan Strait, he believes a possible confrontation between Taipei and Beijing is “very remote.”

“In Taiwan, everything is normal and, if in the remote possibility of an  emergency situation, like for example earthquake or even war, the Taiwan government is prepared not only in protecting their own people but even the Filipinos, especially our workers,” Bello told a News Forum in Quezon City last Saturday.

He said he recently met with representatives of Taiwan’s National Police Agency and Civil Defense Office and both agencies assured the protection and welfare of Filipinos.

Bello said about 89,000 shelters are spread across the island that could accommodate more than Taiwan’s total population of 23 million, including Filipinos.

“In addition to the shelter provided by the Taiwanese government, all factories have their own shelters for their workers. That is how Taiwan is prepared,” he said.

Bello also mentioned the recent trip of Senator Risa Hontiveros to Taiwan where she met with Filipino workers. “Whether this is official or private, it does not really matter. China does not really mind elected officials going there, only those who are executive officers),” he added.

Bello said he was informed Hontiveros was invited by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which resulted in her meeting with the Taiwanese President Tsai (Ing-wen).

In a press statement by her office, Hontiveros called for increased interaction with Taiwan, citing the similar challenges it shares with Manila, among them cybersecurity and climate change.

Beijing had previously criticized Tsai’s meeting with United States lawmakers that prompted the deployment of warships and fighter jets around the island for military drills.