TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Gilberto Lauengco, the Philippines' newly appointed representative to Taiwan, says promoting the welfare of Filipino workers and enhancing trade and agricultural development between the two countries will be his two top priorities as he takes the reigns at the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei.
Speaking with CNA on Sunday (Aug. 8), Lauengco said helping the Philippines’ labor attache care for the 150,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan is a top concern for him.
Lauengco has been serving as deputy resident representative of MECO since 2016, and he has been active in speaking out for the interests of his compatriots in Taiwan. After at least 123 Filipino workers tested positive for COVID-19 in early June, he responded by penning a letter to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), urgently requesting Filipino workers in the country be included in its vaccination plan priority list, per CNA.
"We understand that it will be difficult to list migrant workers as a priority group for vaccination, but we hope the Taiwan government considers it for the benefit of everybody," he said at the time, citing the dangers of cluster infections among migrant workers who live in close-quarter dormitories.
Later that month, Lauengco joined with Indonesia’s representative Budi Santoso and Thailand’s representative Thongchai Chasawath in a joint statement once again calling on Taiwan’s government to include nationals from their countries on vaccination plan priority lists.
When it comes to stimulating bilateral trade, Lauengco sees providing land, simplifying investment procedures, and streamlining the visa application process as necessary incentives to attract Taiwanese businesspeople to invest in his country, per CNA.
Lauengco is also bullish on agricultural cooperation. "I've been all around Taiwan, and I've seen the depth and the level of technology in agriculture… So I'm trying to get those technologies to partner with Philippine technologies, so that we can assist the Philippines in so far as our agriculture industry is concerned," he said to CNA.
Lauengco said in a recent virtual forum held between the agricultural ministries of Taiwan and the Philippines that his country has drawn greatly on Taiwan’s experience in training the next generation of young farmers in the Philippines and in recovering its pork industry, per UDN. Lauengco plans to send Filipino students to learn agricultural skills in Taiwan once the pandemic eases and establish more exchanges and agricultural technical missions too.
When asked about the China factor in Taiwan-Philippines relations, Lauengco said MECO has been given significant leeway to navigate the official constraints of Manila’s "one China" policy, per CNA.
"We work with the same constraints as everybody else in the region," he said. “But the (Philippine-Taiwan) relationship is there... friendship, economics, health, those are things that will last even to the next generation," he said, adding that Taiwan is “one of the best places you can think of being posted” as a diplomat.