Philippine labor import freeze to hurt Taiwan's tech sector: official

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) Suspending the importation of Philippine labor will adversely affect Taiwan's high-tech industry, a Taiwanese labor official said Sunday, commenting on a government threat of sanctions against the Philippines over the recent shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman. The technology industry will bear the brunt of such a move because it relies mainly on Filipino workers, who tend to have a good command of English, to operate machinery, said Lin San-quei, head of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training. Taiwan has threatened to suspend the importation of Philippine labor, as part of its efforts to obtain a prompt response from the Philippines on the shooting incident. Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was shot dead aboard a Taiwanese fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, in an encounter with a Philippine government patrol vessel May 9. Taiwan maintains that the incident took place in an overlapping economic zone of the two countries, some 170 nautical miles off southern Taiwan, while the Philippines reportedly said the incident occurred in its waters and that its personnel had only been carrying out their duties to stop illegal fishing. The bureau put the number of Philippine laborers in Taiwan at 87,000, most of whom are working in the manufacturing sector, while the others are mainly domestic caretakers. Lin said that Philippine workers' strong command of English gives them choices other than Taiwan when considering overseas work. Taiwan is not necessarily their top pick, he added. Meanwhile, some Philippine workers in Taiwan said Sunday they were not unaware of the threats of sanctions. Others expressed sympathy for Hung's family and said they are in favor of an apology by the Philippines. A Philippine woman who identified herself as Amor, 38, told the Central News Agency that she and her compatriots usually work Monday to Saturday and did not know about the shooting incident. She said it would be unfair for Taiwan to freeze the importation of workers from her country, as it has threatened to do if the Philippines does not respond to its demands by midnight Tuesday. Taiwan is demanding a formal apology by the Philippines, compensation for the family of the victim, a probe into the incident and punishment of the perpetrators, and a commitment to starting bilateral talks on a fishery agreement. A Philippine tourist who identified himself as Joey told CNA the incident could have been the result of a mistake. The Philippine patrol vessel probably mistook the Taiwanese fishing boat for a Chinese vessel, he said, noting that there have been conflicts between his country and China in the South China Sea in the past. He said he is deeply sorry about the death of the Taiwanese fisherman and thinks the Philippines government should issue an apology. (By Zoe Wei and Scully Hsiao)