By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed concern on Thursday that the Philippines’ migrant population in Taiwan would be at risk if tensions between the latter and China were to escalate.

“The Philippines would be especially sensitive to any worsening of situation there, simply because we have about 200,000 Filipinos living and working in Taiwan and because we are close to Taiwan,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said during a forum in Manila.

He said the China-Taiwan situation turning for the worst is a possibility that would affect not only the Philippines but all the countries in the region, so Manila’s position is to urge officials of both Taiwan and China to regularly communicate with each other to prevent an escalation of tensions.

After the election of Lai Ching-te as Taiwan president, the DFA affirmed its commitment to adhere to the One China policy.

“In the context of our One China Policy, you know that we have economic interaction with Taiwan through the years and, of course, it’s (Taiwan’s conflict with China) a great concern not only with the Philippines but I think to the entire region and even the world,” said Mr. Manalo.

“I personally think it’s not in anyone’s interest that we should support any kind of worsening of the situation so what we do is we always urge the parties to be in direct contact,” he added.

Taiwan has been independent from China since 1949, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory and views Taiwan as a “renegade province.”

Tensions between the Philippines and China have also worsened amid Beijing’s repeated attempts to block Philippine resupply missions to its troops stationed at a World War II shipwreck grounded on Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

Meanwhile, Mr. Manalo said negotiations with Japan on the Reciprocal Access Agreement have been progressing and that the Philippines would be willing to hold more bilateral meetings between their military counterparts.

The Philippines and Japan started negotiations on the agreement last year, which would allow both countries to deploy their forces on each other’s soil.

The deal would then have to be submitted to the Philippine Senate and Japanese legislature for ratification.

“I think they are making progress in the negotiations, in fact I’ve been briefed on this and I think the movement has been going well,” Mr. Manalo said, noting that the two sides were working out issues that need refinement.