MANILA, Philippines—The Taiwan government on Wednesday said the delayed release by Malacañang of the results of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigation into the death of a Taiwanese fisherman was holding up the lifting of a freeze-hire order affecting about 10,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the end of this month.
Taiwan and the Philippines conducted parallel investigations into the shooting of the fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel on May 9 that set off a diplomatic row between the two countries that led to a ban on the hiring of Filipino workers. The NBI report was submitted to President Aquino last month but it has yet to be released.
“We are ready to release results of our investigation anytime, we are just waiting for the Philippine government to announce the NBI recommendation and if acceptable the ban on the hiring will be immediately lifted,” Andrew Lin, political affairs officer of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Affairs Office told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday in Makati City.
“It has been more than a month since the result was submitted to President Aquino and until now we are still waiting, we are ready to release the result of our investigation so we can resolve the issue of the OFWs,” Lin said.
Taiwan had set four conditions to lift the ban on hiring Filipino workers following the shooting incident. Lin said three of these four conditions have already been crossed out. Those three—an apology from the Philippine government, compensation for the death of Hung and a fishery agreement—were already being discussed with Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chair Amadeo Perez, he added.
“These conditions are now being worked out, what we are now awaiting is the announcement of the result of NBI investigation,” Lin said, referring to the last condition.
He said that 6,000 working permits were not processed after the May 15 cutoff and 10,000 more are going to expire at the end of the month.
Lin said they have received petitions both from Filipino workers and their Taiwan employers to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
“We know that the Philippine government is very cautious in this issue, but we want to echo the public’s call to immediately release the result of the NBI investigation to end the sanctions,” he said.
Lin said Malacañang’s decision to go slow in releasing the recommendations had aroused speculations from their citizens, particularly its media.
He said Taiwan was abiding with the agreement between them and the NBI to simultaneously release the results of their respective investigations.
“We are keeping with the agreement for simultaneous announcement but we cannot say up to when we can wait,” he said.
He also said that result of their probe “is very close” to the findings of the NBI based on the revelation of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
When asked for a response to the Taiwanese call for the release of the NBI report, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang would not be pressured by Taiwan.
The report, being reviewed by President Aquino for some time now, would be released to the public “as the government deems it.”
“It will not be subject to any conditions,” Lacierda told reporters in response to reports that Taiwan had set certain conditions for the lifting of sanctions.
Lacierda did not mention a date for the release of the report, saying, “As soon as the President authorizes the release of the report, the report will be released.”
Malacañang acted unfazed by the report that about 10,000 OFWs stood to lose their jobs at the end of this month.
Lacierda said that ideally, the government would prefer that overseas workers in Taiwan “would not be subject to any change in the situation” between Taiwan and the Philippines.
“This is not the first time that Taiwan has threatened to hold back on OFWs. But nonetheless, we have always maintained that we are going to evaluate each concern, each situation based on how the Philippine government views and evaluates the situation, not based on pressures exerted by any foreign or host countries,” he said.
Lacierda claimed 6,000, not 10,000, Filipino migrant workers stood to lose their jobs in Taiwan as an offshoot of the hiring ban.—With a report by Tina G. Santos