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PINOYS UNDER FIRE

Armed gangsters hunt down Filipinos in Taipei

Nearly 3,000 Cebuano workers in Taiwan, but no alarm yet
/ 07:48 AM May 19, 2013

Taiwanese gangsters armed with baseball bats and wooden clubs are on the prowl in Taipei to hunt down and physically assault Filipino workers.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), the country’s de facto diplomatic post in Taiwan, yesterday confirmed reports that intially spread in social media networks of Filipinos getting beaten up or being denied service in establishments.

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Meco chairman Amadeo Perez in a television interview said the violent incidents were isolated in coastal areas in Pingtung and Kaohsiung.

A worker from Cebu, however, said all is fine in their area but they just decided to indoors for safety.

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“Di man hinoon mi diri kuyaw. Wala pa man nuon mi gi-advisan sa among landlady na bawal mi mogawas sa among dorm. Pero mag-amping lang nuon mi,” said machine operator Sheldon Riveral via Skype. (We’re not really under threat. Our landlady has not prohibited us from going out of our dormitory, but we’re just taking precautions).

A Cebu-based manpower recruitment agency told Cebu Daily News they are in constant touch with the workers they deployed to Taiwan.

“Hopefully the trouble in Taiwan would be resolved because we are really worried for our business and for our applicants too,” said Rosemarie dela Peña of Topmost Manpower Specialist Corp.

The outrage against Filipinos came after the death of a Taiwanese fisherman who was fatally shot by a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol on May 9 in the Balintang Channel off Batanes province. The victim was among those aboard a fishing boat that was allegedly spotted poaching in Philippine territorial waters. The PCG said they fired in self defense after the fishing boat allegedly tried to ram their patrol cutter.

A Filipino worker interviewed by GMA News claimed he was ganged up by about a dozen gangsters. “May dumating na mga gangster naka-motor. Anim po ang motor at may mga sakay bawat motor na dalawang katao,” the worker said. “Pauwi na po ako may umikot sakin kaagad. Alam ko na titirahin ako kaya nasalag ko po. Kung di ko po nasalag sa ulo ang tama ko.” (The gangsters came on motorbikes. There were six motorcycles. I was on my home and they encircled me. I knew that they were going to hit me but I was fortunate to have parried their blows. They could’ve hit me on the head.)

Meco’s Perez said the gangsters target foreign workers, including Vietnamese and Indonesians.“Pero ngayon naka-concentrate sila sa Pilipino,” Perez said. (But now, they pick on Filipinos.)

The Meco in Kaohsiung advised Filipinos to “remain calm and avoid any confrontation with any belligerent individuals.”“Please avoid large groups and calling attention to yourselves,” it added.

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“We have been receiving unverified accounts of acts of violence against Filipinos. We have informed Taiwanese authorities of these reports and they have assured us such acts will not be tolerated… wrongdoers shall be prosecuted according to law,” Meco said on its Facebook page.

Resolve conflict

The Hong Kong-based International Migrants Alliance (IMA) yesterday called on Manila and Taipei to immediately resolve the conflict diplomatically.

“Filipino migrants are innocent; they should be protected,” IMA chair Eni Lestari said. “If any more untoward incident happens to any Filipino migrant in Taiwan because of this delay in resolution of the conflict, the IMA holds both the Taiwanese and Philippine governments responsible,” she said.

Lestari, an Indonesian domestic worker, said IMA had also received reports of Filipino migrants experiencing physical harm and other discriminatory acts from Taiwanese locals.

“This should stop. No physical attack or any act of racist discrimination should be done or condoned,” she said, adding, “The Filipino migrants in Taiwan do not only contribute to the welfare of their loved ones and families back home. They too contribute to the economy of Taiwan and attend to the needs of the families they work for in Taiwan.”

Lestari said that while anger in Taiwan over the action of the Philippine government may be justified, the Taiwanese government should also be responsible for protecting the Filipino migrant workers residing on the island.

The IMA also warned against Taiwan closing the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, which acts as the Philippines’ de facto embassy on the island. The group said withdrawing the Meco from Taiwan would only put the Filipino migrant workers in “graver danger.”

Rama’s concern

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has expressed concern over Cebuano workers eyeing jobs in Taiwan.

“We are always affected. Job fairs and the prospect of employment, all of this will be stood because of the order of stoppage of bringing Filipino workers to Taiwan,” Rama told Cebu Daily News.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou froze the hiring of Filipino workers last Wednesday to express “strong dissatisfaction” over the way Manila handled the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman.

Taipei rejected Manila’s apology as insincere and informal.

“We have to be clear in our positioning. We should satisfy and reduce their (Taiwan’s) anger,” Rama added.

Cebu City has sister-city ties with Greater Kaohsiung which has donated several used buses and firetrucks to Cebu city over the years. Rama, however, said he has no intention to directly intervene in the conflict.

“We have to leave it first to the national foreign affairs level. Dili ta pataka ug sulod,” he told CDN.

Taiwanese towns suspended all sisterhood agreements with the Philippines following the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman./Correspondents Christine Emily L. Pantaleon, Jose Santino S. Bunachita and Inquirer

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