Philippines Taiwan Economic Cultural Perspectives

Manila Bulletin, March 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

Philippines Taiwan Economic Cultural Perspectives


Last 06-10 March, FVR led a 60-man business-sports delegation to Taiwan. In the course thereof, we paid courtesy calls on Taiwan Vice President Wu Den-Yih at the Presidential Palace and Mayor Eric Lilan Chu of New Taipei City (Taiwan's most populous city encompassing 27 districts and with four million - plus people). We also met with former Vice President Vincent Siew (now Chairman of the National Chung Hwa Economic Research Foundation); former Economic Minister and Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman P.K. Chiang; as well as the Mayors/Local Chief Executives of three other cities that our delegation visited - Taichung, Nantou and Chiayi.

Taiwan is an island-country in East Asia with the People's Republic of China (PRC or Mainland China) to the west, Japan to the east and northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Though its official name is "Republic of China" (ROC), it has had various names throughout its existence. Its earlier name "Formosa" or "Ilha Formosa" (Beautiful Island) dates from circa-1544 when Portuguese sailors first sighted it.

During the 1950s and 1960s, it was common to refer to it as "Nationalist China" (or "Free China") to differentiate it from "Communist China" (or "Red China"). It was present in 1945 as a signatory to the United Nations charter under the name "China" until 1971, when it lost its seat to the PRC, and almost all countries today (including the US, the EU, the ASEAN nations, the African Union states, etc.), have diplomatic relations with the PRC under the "One-China" policy. Since then, the name "China" has been commonly used internationally to refer only to the PRC. ROC is recognized only by a handful of small Latin countries and Pacific Island nations.

Over subsequent decades, the Republic of China has become commonly known as "Taiwan," after the main island that constitutes most of its territory. Due to diplomatic pressure from the PRC, the Republic of China participates in some international forums and organizations under the name "Chinese Taipei." It is that name under which it has competed in the Olympic Games since 1979, and participates as an observer at the World Health Organization.

Taiwan's Economy

During the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan experienced rapid economic growth and industrialization and is now an advanced economy, with a 2012 GDP of USD 466 billion (27th world-wide). With a population of 23.4 million (2012), it boasts of a GDP per capita of USD 19,900, 36th highest in the world. Based on these figures the average Taiwanese is 7 times more prosperous than the average Filipino.

Taiwan is one of Asia's economic tigers. It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum. Taiwan's advanced technology industry plays a key role in the global economy and is ranked highly in terms of freedom of the press, democratic governance, economic inclusiveness, healthcare, public education, and human development. Some 90,000 of our OFWs work in Taiwan under comparatively better conditions than in the Middle East or other Asian countries.

During our delegation's extended dialogue with Vice President Wu Den-Yih, Deputy Foreign Minister Ting Joseph Shih, and other senior leaders, they invariably expressed their shared optimism about the expansion of Philippines-Taiwan bilateral trade (valued at about USD 11 billion in 2012) and increase of Taiwanese investments in the Philippines - not only because of favorable conditions in our country, but also due to the steadily rising costs of labor/production and numerous regulatory changes in Mainland China (where Taiwanese investments have already reached the USD 100 billion mark).

These factors are compelling Taiwanese companies in China, as well as new investors, to look at other countries, notably the Philippines, as their possible new production sites.

It may be recalled that last 2 April 2012, on the sidelines of the Annual Conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in Hainan, China, FVR met with then newly elected Taiwan Vice President Wu and his delegation, and was invited to sit in on the PRC-Taiwan "Cross-Straits Relations" session.

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