It was another eventful week in Taipei as the Manila Economic and Cultural Office through its Philippine Trade and Investment Center under the able stewardship of its director, Michael Alfred Ignacio, capped its participation in the Innovex 2019 with great success.
Innovex showcased the creative technologies of start-ups from all over the world, and the Philippine start-ups brought to Taipei by MECO and the PTIC of our Department of Trade and Industry featured artificial intelligence, machine learning, geospatial mapping, housing solutions, cyber-security, advertising, e-commerce, logistics and market research.
The highlight of our Philippine participation was when no less than Chairman Terry Gou of Foxconn, the largest components supplier of Apple, visited the Philippine booth, drawn by the impressive line-up brought in from Manila.
In a conversation between the Foxconn chairman and this writer, along with PSIA President Jonathan de Luzurriaga, QBO Innovation Hub Executive Director Katrina Chan, and our trade counsellor, Mike Ignacio, the charismatic Terry Gou, who recently announced plans to run for president of Taiwan in the up-coming January 2020 elections, revealed his intentions to put up a research and development center in the Philippines and Singapore.
Mr. Gou lauded our proficiency in English and the rising excellence of young Filipinos in the field of information technology and software development. As MECO Chairman and Resident Representative in Taiwan, I took the occasion to invite him to the Philippines so that he could see for himself how we have advanced in the field of IT.
His company, which now employs hundreds of thousands, grew from humble beginnings in a rented shed in Tucheng in the suburbs of Taipei, with only $7,500 in startup money and ten elderly workers where he made plastic parts for television sets.
It was in 1980 when he got his first break after Atari, a gaming console manufacturer, made an order for joysticks. He was said to have aggressively brought in himself uninvited in many companies in the United States during that time in search of customers. This derring-do successfully secured additional orders for him, even if it unnerved company security.
In 1996, Hon Hai (the Chinese registered name for Foxconn) started building chassis for a desktop brand which led him to secure contracts with other high-profile customers, including Apple. Within just a few years, Foxconn grew into a consumer electronics giant.
It is in exhibits like these that innovations are discovered by people like Gou who, from experience, knows the value of creativity, commitment and hard work.
In Taiwan, these good values are inculcated early and manifested in day-to-day life.
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Carrefour, Europe’s largest supermarket chain, which has 120 outlets all over Taiwan, also featured Philippine food products, from Mang Juan’s chicharon to other snack foods, such as dried mangoes and banana chips, in spaces dedicated to Philippine-made products.
The cooperation with the French Carrefour chain in Taiwan is a prelude to our June 12 Independence Day commemoration and the forthcoming Taipei Food Show towards the last week of June.
Though the quality of Philippine food exports are slowly gaining acceptance in the Taiwanese market, how I wish government and Philippine business could focus on increasing the number and variety of such exports, as well as improve on the packaging of these products.
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Also last week, I was at Providence University in Taichung City, central Taiwan, to forge an agreement that would enable Filipino migrant workers and immigrants in Taiwan to enroll in non-degree courses such as cosmetology, caregiving, culinary arts and Mandarin language training.
We were warmly welcomed by university officials and faculty members led by its president, Dr. Augustine Chuang Yi Tang, into its quaint campus which evolved from humble beginnings since 1948 when it was relocated from China. It is now one of the twelve members of the Excellent Long-Established University Consortium of Taiwan.
Founded by the French-based Missionary Sisters of Providence, it is the only Catholic university in central Taiwan which is the reason why Filipinos would easily find themselves at home as they pursue their studies and training.
The university specializes in cosmetic and food science courses, which are rarely offered in the Philippines but graduates of which are in high demand abroad.
This June, more than 30 overseas Filipino workers and new Filipino immigrants will be finishing their Mandarin course program, and with the agreement that the Manila Economic and Cultural Office signed with the university, future cooperation efforts may pave the way for the opening of degree and post-graduate programs for Filipinos.
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The past week was not without some unnerving moments though, as when MECO had to intercede with the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the 69 containers of trash that President Duterte ordered returned to Canada, would be allowed trans-shipment in the southern port of Kaohsiung.
Because these were labelled as “hazardous wastes”, and the attendant publicity drew world attention, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda was worried about the trans-shipment through a foreign port with very strict environmental laws. So was the Canadian resident representative in Taipei.
In any case, MV Bavaria, the Liberian-registered vessel which went on a slow trip from Subic to Kaohsiung, finally docked at half past midnight Sunday, June 2, and in the process of being loaded to a bigger Maersk Line ship bound for Canada as of this writing.
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May is when the Tzu Chi Foundation commemorates Buddha’s birthday, which always coincides with what the rest of the world calls Mother’s Day. I am repeatedly amazed at how fervently this occasion is commemorated in Taipei, this being my third year to be a guest in their affair.
More than 100,000 followers attend Buddha Day rites at the sprawling Chiang Kai Shek Memorial grounds every year and it is so inspiring to see them practicing their faith in a very orderly and solemn manner.
Even Taiwan’s presidents, past and present, and politicians from both sides of their two-party system, humbly unite themselves in reverence to the Buddha on that day, giving good examples for their people.
Humble beginnings are indeed rewarded with success if one puts in hard work and dedication to it, most especially so if government will give the support to catalyze and nurture its growth.
But it is humility amid success that truly impresses and nourishes the soul.