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Taipei-Manila ECA study almost complete: envoy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A feasibility study on signing an Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA) between Taiwan and the Philippines is nearing completion, the Philippines' top envoy to Taiwan said recently.

“The studies are being completed,” Antonio Basilio, resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, told the Central News Agency during an interview this past Friday.

Basilio said the next step for the Philippines government is to hold consultations with related stakeholders, including the Philippines' business communities and legislature.

“We will invite researchers and businessmen from Taiwan to meet with researchers and businessmen in the Philippines for a workshop.”

He said the Philippines hopes that a workshop can be held before June 2014.

“In general, the idea is to bring this to a stage where both sides say that they can launch negotiations (on the ECA),” he said.

He would not give an exact timetable on when official negotiations would begin, saying there are still more significant steps to be taken before official talks are launched.

In the meantime, Basilio disclosed that Taipei and Manila are currently in talks to expand the coverage of a Kaohsiung-Subic/Bay-Clark economic corridor.

Taiwan and the Philippines in 2005 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the economic corridor, which is targeted to help Taiwanese companies make headway in the ASEAN market.

“But there were some issues that were not resolved and the MOU expired, so we are now negotiating a new one to expand the coverage of the economic corridor,” he noted.

The objective is to smooth the process that allows goods to move freely and allow more access to the Philippines market as well as to the ASEAN market, Basilio said.

Later on, both sides may talk about easing regulations for workers and supervisors moving from Taiwan to the Philippines, he added.

Envoy Thanks Taiwan

During the interview, the Philippines envoy once again expressed his gratitude to Taiwan for its swift relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

“The people of Taiwan were among the first to respond to relieve the suffering of the victims of the typhoon, “ said Basilio.

Even more impressive was that even though the Taiwan government had given disaster relief supplies and cash donations to the Philippines, the majority of the donations were made by individuals and charity organizations in Taiwan, he said.

“That shows the compassion and sympathy goes very deep, not just from the government, but also from the Taiwanese people,” he said, elaborating that the people of the Philippines in typhoon-affected areas are deeply impressed by the generosity and compassion of the Taiwanese.

“The strong friendship between our two peoples are strengthened and boosted further with this incident,” he added.

According to Taiwan's foreign ministry, public and private donors in Taiwan have offered over NT$300 million in goods and aid to the typhoon-struck Philippines.

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