Taiwan OFW contingency plan


Law vs. IRR: The spring cannot rise higher than the source

Tension between China and Taiwan continues to escalate as the United States warship USS Milius sailed through the Taiwan Strait last Sunday, in what may be perceived as an affirmation of the United States’ readiness to defend Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region amid China’s efforts to regain control over the self-ruled island.  Earlier this month, Chinese warships and aircrafts were deployed near the waters of Taiwan, sending the loud and clear signal that China is dead serious in safeguarding national territory and sovereignty which it claims Taiwan to be an integral part.   A few days ago, China ended what may be viewed as “rehearsal” strikes in Taiwan waters – perhaps a sort of preview of Chinese military power should foreign interference continue to threaten its aggressive claim of control in Taiwan.

The Philippines’ northernmost islands are only 190 kilometers from Taiwan.  This proximity has enabled trade and investments to flourish freely between the two democratic countries since time immemorial.  According to the Department of Migrant Workers, there are about 150,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Taiwan whose cash remittances in February 2023 according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reached $76,033 or nearly ₱4.3 million. The heightened tension between Taiwan and China proportionally escalates the risks for our OFWs in Taiwan who are mostly factory workers, domestic helpers and fishermen.

Anent the foregoing threat confronting our kababayans in Taiwan, the Philippine government might as well maximize its gains from the ongoing Balikatan exercises and include perhaps as part of this military training a sort of drill designed for evacuating OFWs in Taiwan, in the event that China aggressively advances control over the democratically governed island. It has been made clear that the EDCA is for the strengthening of Philippine military forces and to assist the Philippines during humanitarian crises. In the proposed plan for evacuation, Philippine commercial vessels will transport OFWs from Taiwan to Cagayan or Batanes to be assisted in international waters by the Philippines or US navies, and then from there will be processed before their return to their respective hometowns.  I believe that evacuation via sea is the most feasible necessitating the recognition of a  safe passage sea lane, the most practical and the fastest way to repatriate our working kababayans in Taiwan should the Beijing-Taipei rift worsen.  We should be ready for rescue and evacuation in order for Filipinos to avoid being caught in the likely crossfire.

While concerned government agencies have surely prepared strategic plans and systematized procedures to guarantee the safety of OFWs caught in the middle of wars, crises, emergencies, and such other unwanted situations, there is no harm in preparing our military forces and civilian passenger ships as well in the conduct of evacuation and repatriation of OFWs from any country or region of the world.  After all, Balikatan exercises are meant to capacitate our military personnel with the knowledge and skills to defend national security and safeguard the people’s welfare and safety during humanitarian crises.

In the coming days, we hope that peace and regional cooperation will keep Southeast Asian nations knitted to a common thread of mutual economic development.  We offer our prayers for the safety of our OFWs in Taiwan, imploring God’s guidance and protection for them, their families and their work.