Taipei, May 22 (CNA) Several Taiwanese charities said Tuesday that their humanitarian aid to the Philippines and bilateral exchanges have been largely unaffected by the current diplomatic dispute between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Humanitarian assistance will be carried out "in accordance with established plans," Lisa Hsu, director of communications and development at Taiwan's Red Cross Society, told CNA, referring to the charity's aid to victims of the December 2012 Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines.
Taiwan's Red Cross Society is currently helping its Filipino counterpart to set up water purifiers in disaster areas in the Philippines with funds raised by the Taiwanese public.
"Our main concern is humanitarian aid," Hsu said, when asked if the recent diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines will affect the charity's aid.
"I don't think the incident will affect our assistance because humanitarian aid is a universal value that surpasses political and ethnic considerations," said Rebecca Wang, chief executive officer of the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation, which helps patients with cleft lip and palate.
The foundation, which sends medical mission teams to developing Asian countries, has helped trained Filipino medical workers in cleft lip and palate surgery and is currently sponsoring a research project on pre-surgical treatment in the Philippines.
"We won't just cut off our cooperation and exchanges because our Filipino partners are also doing the work of helping others," said Wang, who calls the diplomatic dispute and humanitarian work "two separate things."
Meanwhile, Lien Shu-fen, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's International Action and Cooperation Team, said her group's interactions with non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Philippines will not be affected by the diplomatic dispute.
Many large international organizations have their Asian offices set up in Manila and they have nothing to do with the Taiwan-Philippine row, she said.
The team, consisting of doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers and other professionals, provides health services to disadvantaged groups in places such as Taiwan, Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Lien, however, said that a red travel alert Taiwan issued for the Philippines May 15 could deter her group from sending volunteers to the Philippines "because to us, the safety of our volunteers is more important than anything else."
Meanwhile, some charities, although conceding that the diplomatic row will not affect their work and exchanges with the Philippines, sought to keep a low profile on the subject.
Chien Tung-yuan, a senior specialist from the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, which has a branch office in the Philippines, expressed hope that the charity's work will not be linked to the dispute.
"Local charity work (in the Philippines) is carried out by local volunteers. It shouldn't be connected to any political or religious problems," he said.
While exchanges among private organizations might not be seeing much of a change, interaction at the official level are strained.
The Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it plans to suspend offering scholarships to Filipino students and to stop inviting Philippine officials to its seminars this year.
Each year, the ICDF invites around 500 government and NGO officials from developing countries to its professional seminars to receive training in areas including trade, agriculture, industrial development, medicine and health.
It also offers around 155 scholarships each year to students from developing countries to encourage them to study in Taiwan.
The diplomatic row was triggered by the killing of 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng by a Philippine government patrol boat May 9 in waters where the exclusive economic zones of the two countries overlap.
(By Christie Chen)