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President Chen Meets with Antonio Basilio, New Chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Wednesday that the absence of bilateral diplomatic relations between the Republic of China and the Philippines should not hinder exchanges of visits by high-ranking officials from the two sides. 

Chen made the remarks while meeting with Antonio Basilio, new chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which is authorized by the Philippine government to handle exchanges with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. 

Noting that Taiwan and the Philippines are close neighbors, Chen said the absence of formal diplomatic relations has not hampered the development of substantive relations between the two countries. 

For instance, Chen recalled that former ROC President Lee Teng-hui met with his then-Philippine counterpart, Fidel Ramos, during a transit stop at Subic Bay in 1994 on his way to Indonesia for an unofficial visit. 

Chen pointed out that there is still ample room for Taiwan and the Philippines to boost bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the economic, trade, cultural and educational fields. 

The president told his guests that the ROC government has consistently encouraged Taiwan entrepreneurs to invest in Southeast Asian countries, particularly members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

In his view, Chen said the Philippines can be a good investment destination and springboard for Taiwan business people to tap into the vast Southeast Asian market. 

However, direct Taiwan investment in the Philippines remains limited for various reasons, including worsening public order there. 

Chen said it takes only 45 minutes to fly from the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung to the Philippines. "It would be a pity if our two countries could not further upgrade substantive exchanges," he noted. 

With the Philippine political situation gradually stabilizing, Chen said he is hopeful that substantive ROC-Philippine relations will from now on make headway smoothly. 

More than 92,000 Philippine nationals are now legally working in Taiwan. Chen said that although there have been some unpleasant labor-management squabbles involving Philippine workers, most Philippine laborers are generally diligent. "We appreciate their contribution to helping boost our economic development over the past years," Chen said, adding that the ROC will continue keeping its door open to Philippine workers. 

In addition, Chen said Taiwan will also encourage its people to invest in the Philippines or vacation there in order to help enhance bilateral exchanges.

Chen said he also hopes that ROC-Philippine relations will enter a new stage during Basilio's term of office.



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