Manila Economic and Cultural Office tags evacuation sites, shelters for OFWs in Taiwan

“EVERYTHING is very normal, very calm, especially our OFWs.”

The Philippines’s top representative to Taiwan Silvestre Bello III made this assurance Wednesday when asked by BusinessMirror on the situation in Taiwan following the controversial visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi arrived in Taiwan Tuesday night despite dire warnings from Beijing that it would take all “necessary measures” to defend the territorial sovereignty of China. On Wednesday, China was on high military alert; 21 of its warplanes entered the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), and the Taiwan government web site was attacked.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has been blocking international efforts to recognize it as an independent state.

Bello, former Labor Secretary and recently appointed by President Marcos as chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), said OFWs in Taiwan are already “used” to hearing sirens whenever Chinese fighter jets enter Taiwan’s air space.

There are 200,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.

According to Bello, factories where most Filipinos are working have emergency plans in place in case China attacks Taiwan.

“Places of work and factories [have been] required ever since to have shelter and food provision for at least two weeks,” Bello said, quoting a report he received from Taipei.

Aside from that, MECO and the three Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung have a contingency plan “in place for execution” with identified evacuation areas and bomb shelters.

“Situation is normal and majority of the people and expats do not believe that China will attack Taiwan at this point it time, although some media outlets are speculating or insinuating otherwise. Nonetheless, our three POLOs and MECO in Taiwan are prepared for any eventualities,” the report to Bello said. “POLOs  and MECO in Taiwan are closely monitoring the situation.” MECO has also maintained contact with the Taiwan Office of the Civil Defense, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Labor and relevant agencies.

Gina Lin, a longtime resident of Taipei who volunteers to help OFWs with translation or legal concerns, said so far they have not felt any effect of the Pelosi visit on their everyday living. But they expect China would retaliate once Pelosi leaves the island Thursday.

“Although Taiwan cancelled 50 international flights and shipping for today and tomorrow,” Lin said.

China’s threat to sanction Taiwan by stopping the export of agricultural products this might also affect Taiwan’s manufacturing sector where Filipinos are mostly employed, she said.

Image credits: AP/Chiang Ying-ying