Taiwan has stressed that the Philippines, under the "New Southbound Policy," is the most important country as its gateway to expand multi-faceted cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) member nations.
Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, Representative of Taiwan (ROC) to the Philippines, in its speech during the 2016 Taiwan Alumni Association Gathering, organized by Taipei/Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines, said Taiwan will focus on forging long-term comprehensive, multi-faceted, two-way, reciprocal and mutually beneficial relations with 18 countries, including members of ASEAN, South Asian countries, New Zealand, and Australia.
These relations will focus in the areas of economic and trade cooperation, personnel exchanges, resource sharing, and regional linkages.
The ROC (Taiwan) President Tsai Ing-wen has been launching the “New Southbound Policy” since September 2016.
He said that as the Philippines plays an important role under this policy, Taiwan will strengthen cooperation with the Philippines in various fields, such as trade and investment, agriculture, fisheries aquaculture, technology, small and medium enterprises, ICT, green technology, climate change, education, and culture.
In this regard, he urged Taiwanese entrepreneurs to diversify their investments to the Philippines, as the Philippine infrastructure has continuously improved and the efficiency of operations at ports has also been increasing.
Meanwhile, Lin called on Filipino entrepreneurs to engage potential Taiwanese partners in agribusiness, manufacturing, banking, transport and communications, infrastructure and real estate, and tourism and logistics.
“The Philippines has the biggest English-speaking population in ASEAN and lots of energetic and talented professionals. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and its economic fundamental is good and strong. The Filipino consumer market is young whose purchasing power has been one of the best among ASEAN countries. As the Philippines is poised for high and sustained growth, its market is one of the biggest ASEAN markets. All of these factors help explain why we should work in partnership, I am sure that our two countries will benefit from it,” he further said.
Lin also pointed out the geographic proximity and close bond between Taiwan and the Philippines by reflecting the example of Batanes, the northern most province of the Philippines and actually the nearest Philippine province to Taiwan.
“On a clear day, one can even see Kaohsiung, the southernmost city of Taiwan. In fact, an urban legend states that one can hear a rooster crows in the morning in Batanes from the southernmost tip of Taiwan. People in Batanes can even listen to the radio programs from Taiwan. For a Taiwanese, it truly feels like being home when staying in Batanes.”
Lin went on to elaborate the upholding of common values between Taiwan and the Philippines. ”We are not only geographically close to each other. We also share common values of freedom, democracy, free media, rule of law, civil society, and similar Austronesia culture and destiny. Furthermore, Taiwanese and Filipinos share common traits with being optimistic, courteous, and caring.”
Lin then stressed Taiwan is the genuine friend of the Philippines. “Physically, it takes only one hour and 45 minutes by airplane to travel between Taiwan and the Philippines. However, we are closer than anyone can think of.
Whenever there are natural calamities in the Philippines, Taiwan, as a genuine friend and close neighbor of the Philippines, is always quick to respond and one of the first countries to extend a helping hand by providing humanitarian assistance."
He added that on November 23, he flew to Batanes to donate one million pesos and one batch of instant noodles to Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco.
Batanes suffered a heavy loss by typhoon Meranti.
"However, Batanes is not alone. Taiwan will give monetary assistance as part of caring disaster relief efforts for the after typhoon reconstruction. I wish the best for the victims and hope that they can return to their normal lives soon, and that the reconstruction will be carried out smoothly to regain its charm in no time,” he said.
Lin reiterated that, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” so that Taiwan’s timely donation to Batanes is a testimony of solid and robust Taiwan-Philippine relationship.
Lin further articulated that the core value of the “New Southbound Policy” is underlined by people-to-people engagement. He stressed that the new policy is based on this rationale, that TECO, under his guidance, endeavors to promote people to people interactions and understandings.
One example is to establish the Philippine-Taiwan Educational Networking between the University of the Philippines System and Southern Taiwan Universities Alliance.
He believes that such educational exchange will serve as a catalyst in promoting mutual understanding between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Lin also stressed the importance of tourism as a channel to enhance people-to-people exchange and that TECO has made tremendous efforts to ease visa-free requirements for Filipinos by implementing the Online Visa Application (E-Visa) last October.
He added that with the backing of President Tsai’s “New Southbound Policy,” he is optimistic that the substantive bilateral relations between Taiwan and the Philippines will grow from strength to strength in the years to come.
He expressed that right now is the best and opportune time to work together: “The Taiwan-Philippines relationship has never been stronger than it is today. By broadening multifaceted cooperation with your gracious support, we can have more exchanges, more mutual understanding, more educational and cultural exchanges and more investments. We will eventually create a mutually beneficial win-win situation.”(PNA)FPV/Sammy F. Martin