Philippines envoy writes letter to Taiwan mayor about discriminatory remark

'Deep regret' about 'impetuous and undeserved labelling:' MECO Chairman

Philippines representative in Taiwan, Angelito Tan Banayo.

Philippines representative in Taiwan, Angelito Tan Banayo. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Philippines’ representative in Taiwan wrote a letter to Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) expressing his deep regret about the latter’s use of the term “Marias” to describe Filipino workers on the island, reports said Saturday.

The new Kuomintang mayor of southern Taiwan’s major town caused an uproar as the term had a racist and discriminatory connotation, though he later clarified he had used it as a “metaphor.”

In his letter, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Angelito Tan Banayo noted the pejorative slant of the term Han used, while defending the Philippines’ potential as a source of English-language teachers.

“We particularly take exception to your use of the term ‘Marias’ in reference to our citizens, a terminology that has earned negative undertones when used to refer to foreign workers,” the representative wrote.

MECO would “uphold and protect their dignity, sacrifice and contribution to national development from impetuous and undeserved labelling,” the Liberty Times quoted the letter as saying.

Tan Banayo described the Philippines as the fourth-largest English-speaking country in the world, with at least 92 percent of the population speaking English as a second language. Filipinos could play a major role if the Kaohsiung City Government wanted to turn the city bilingual, the representative implied.

The Kaohsiung City Government later issued a news release in which Han apologized for his remarks.