MANILA - Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque didn't need to say Taiwan is part of China and provoke the island-nation's anger, leading to a possible deterioration of relations between Manila and Taipei, the Philippines' representative in Taiwan said Friday.
Angelito Banayo, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, said in an interview with ANC that Roque should have been more careful with his statements as he is the spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"I hate to say this because Harry Roque is a friend of mine. But let me remind him that a spokesman must always have a purpose. More so when he has the President of the country as his principal," Banayo said.
"It's good that has accepted the fact that deportation is the prerogative of the host country...but what official purpose does it serve to needlessly remark that Taiwan is part of China and wading in internal affairs of two countries?
"Is the purpose to injure the sensitivity of a nation that treats almost 160,000 Filipino workers with fairness and equity. What then is the purpose of extending animosity with a political non-sequitur?" he said.
Roque earlier said the Philippines will leave the issue of deportation against a Filipina migrant worker "wholly to the decision of Taiwan and China".
China considers Taiwan, an independent republic, as merely one of its provinces.
Banayo said that the billions of dollars invested by Taiwan in the Philippines, and the employment of "hundreds of thousands" of Filipinos in both countries by the island-nation, might be at risk just because of the spokesman's comments.
"We have a long history of friendship and Taiwan has always been ready to help the country in times of disasters and calamities. Why then must we provoke their anger and stoke their sensitivities?" he said.
Banayo suggested that Roque should apologize to Taiwan.
"If I were in his place, I would. Sometimes, in critical moments such as this when we're going through a crisis in the Philippines, you tend to speak more than what you ought to be saying. There's nothing wrong accepting that a mistake was made," he said.
Banayo said that despite Roque's comments, the Philippines can "move on towards fostering better and stronger mutual relationship with Taiwan."
Taiwan's foreign ministry earlier expressed "strong dissatisfaction" on Roque's statements, which stemmed from the deportation issue surrounding Filipino caregiver Elanel Ordidor who allegedly made "nasty, malevolent" posts against Duterte on social media.
Taiwan foreign affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou had said Philippine authorities should “stop misrepresenting Taiwan as a part of China," adding they have instructed the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines to protest the matter with Manila.
Roque however stood by his statements, saying that the Philippines follows the "One-China policy,” which considers Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan insists it is a sovereign and independent country.
"We've always had one position in this regard together with many countries of the world. I'll leave it at that," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.