[Protesters flash peace signs as they picket the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Makati City last May. EDD GUMBAN]

MANILA, July 9, 2013 (PHILSTAR) More than 10,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan have lost their jobs after their contracts were not extended due to the diplomatic row spawned by the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters, a lawmaker said Monday.

OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres said that over 10,000 OFWs are part of the "collateral damage" caused by the diplomatic tensions between the Philippines and Taiwan, where the said OFWs had worked for the past three years.

Taiwan stopped hiring OFWs to express dissatisfaction over Manila’s handling of the Philippine Coast Guard's (PCG) fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-Cheng in waters off Batanes last May 9.

The employers were prevented from extending their contracts after Taiwan ordered the freeze hiring.

The Philippines will lose at least $2 billion in remittances for the next three years if the contracts of the affected OFWs will not be renewed and all of them are sent back to the country, Señeres said.

Saying that the crisis should not be prolonged any further by both Taiwan and the Philippines, the lawmaker urged the government to release the findings of the investigation on the fatal shooting.

“The DOJ (Department of Justice) findings should now be released to the public and the culprits who started this fiasco should be criminally and administratively charged by the proper court,” he said.

Señeres, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, had also urged the government to resume political and economic relations with Taiwan. He earlier said that the country cannot afford to lose the Taiwan market by the dilly-dallying of the resolution of the crisis over the shooting incident.

He added that OFWs bore the brunt of the tension between the two nation, even if they have nothing to do with the dispute.

Last month, DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima said their report on the incident had been submitted to President Benigno Aquino III after the results of the probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) were consolidated with the findings of the Taiwanese team's investigation.

De Lima had said that the NBI recommends the filing of criminal charges against the PCG personnel involved in the fatal shooting of the Taiwanese fisherman.

Tourist arrivals from Taiwan drop By Donnabelle Gatdula (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The travel ban imposed by the Taiwanese government on the Philippines is slowly taking its toll, official data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed.

For the month of May, arrivals from Taiwan dropped 43.94 percent to 10,643 from 18,984 in the comparative month last year.

For the period of January to May 2013, the number of Taiwanese tourists arriving in the Philippines went down 15.51 percent to 79,297 from 93,855 in the same period in 2012.

But Taiwan remained in the top 10 list, occupying the 6th slot with 3.94 percent of the total tourist arrivals for the period under review.

The drop in Taiwanese arrivals was somewhat offset by the increase in arrivals from Saudi Arabia, which recorded the highest for the period.

For the five-month period, the number of Saudi nationals arriving in the Philippines increased by 36.56 percent to 15,741 from 11,527.

Korea, meanwhile, remained in the top slot in the tourist arrivals data of the DOT for January to March 2013, accounting for 24.33 percent or 489,389. It also increased 23.22 percent from the same period in 2012.

Other countries in the top 10 are USA, 15.22 percent; Japan, 8.95 percent; China, 8.15 percent; Australia, 4.38 percent; Taiwan, 3.94 percent; Singapore, 3.5 percent; Canada, 3.04 percent; Hong Kong, 2.77 percent; and United Kingdom, 2.6 percent.

For the first four months of 2013, foreign arrivals reached 1,649,458 million or a 10.12 percent increase from the same period in 2012.

The DOT continues to promote the Philippines under its brand marketing campaign “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” not only to international tourists but also to local and returning Filipino tourists.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez expressed optimism that the 8th Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors’ Tour (ACGTDT), which will kick off today, as well as other tourism-related programs, will further boost the country’s tourism industry.

“We count on you to help us spread the Philippine brand of FUN to more people around the world. With that, we hope for a successful tour and may your travel experience be positive, memorable and more fun,” Jimenez said.

“Our ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ campaign continues to heighten global awareness of this unlimited travel potential. The growing awareness is sustained not only through the efforts of both government and private sectors, but also through the host communities who make the travel experience a lot more fun,” he added.

This year’s ACGTDT would be joined by 13 Philippine ambassadors and consuls from the US and Canada led by Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia. Some 479 delegates are also expected to join the ACGTDT.

“For this year’s ACGTDT, we have prepared a tour program to connect you back with Filipinos and experience how tourism is able to provide a glimpse of our heritage, character and values,” Jimenez said.

“As a visitor to our country, one of your enduring memories will be our people – who are noted for our natural warmth and happy ways in caring, pampering, and entertaining visitors. As they say, no one remains a stranger in the Philippines for longer than 24 hours. Wherever you go, whatever you do in the country, it’s the Filipinos that will make your holiday memorable,” he added.

He also noted that the Philippines is positioned as a must-see, must-experience destination in Asia as “our country’s more than 7,107 tropical islands present many exciting opportunities for both holiday and business travel.”

The government is eyeing to double its tourism receipts to $8 billion by 2016.

For this year, tourism receipts – or the money spent by foreign visitors in traveling to the country – are seen to reach $4.95 billion.

For next year, it is expected that receipts would further increase to $6.07 billion.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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