The Philippines continues to be a major source of manpower for Taiwan, supplying more than a hundred thousand overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for the electronics industry there.

Dr. Kristy Hsu, director of the Taiwan Asean Studies Center at the Chung Hua Institution for Economic Research (Chier) made the statement during a recent symposium jointly organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Philippine APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Study Center Network and Chier.

“We have 122,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan. If you look at the breakdown of sectors, you will find that Filipino workers have a unique presence in computer and electronics [technology]. More than 60 percent of foreign workers in electronic parts [assembly] are from the Philippines. Filipino workers make up a major workforce in [Taiwan’s] large companies,” said Hsu.

But despite the country’s huge contribution to Taiwan’s labor force, Hsu said Taiwan’s investment to the Philippines remains low compared to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. “Unfortunately, only about 3 percent of our total investments goes to the Philippines. About one-third of our total investments goes to Vietnam. Why? [This is] because of the population and government. Less democratic governments tend to be more efficient,” Hsu said.

Hsu however expressed confidence that the economic ties between Taiwan and the Philippines will strengthen. “In recent years, the bilateral relations [between the two countries] have moved toward a full-fledged partnership and friendship [by] entering into broader areas of cooperation such as trade, investment, education, labor and human resources, including tourism, and [now] smart agriculture or aqua-agriculture,” she said.

She added the Philippines is currently Taiwan’s fourth largest partner in terms of trade volume next to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo vowed to assist Taiwanese companies and investors planning to set up businesses in the Philippines. “We want to position the Philippines as the gateway of Taiwan to markets identified in its new Southbound Policy and as a hub for its global market access strategies,” he said.

Banayo said Wistron, a computer manufacturing outfit of Acer Inc., Taiwan’s biggest computer firm, which left the Philippines for China in 2010, has decided to return and resume its major manufacturing operations in Subic last year. As a result, seven of the firm’s supply chain partners have followed suit and are now putting up shops in the country.

The New Kinpo Group, another major company in Taiwan that produces known brands such as Toshiba, Daisun and Hewlett Packard, also announced it will establish its Southeast Asian hub in the Philippines. Banayo said the firm will expand its current workforce in the country, from the current 10,000 to 18,000 full-time employees within the next two years.

He said that while most of these electronics-based investments will have lower value effects on the country’s gross domestic product, they will help generate jobs, which is of great socioeconomic value to a country like the Philippines.

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