Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Saturday called for an inquiry over the current status of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in order to prevent possible violations of the “One China Policy” of the Philippines in light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts to reestablish strong political and economic ties with the People’s Republic of China.
MECO is a non-government entity that performs diplomatic and consular functions for the Philippines in Taiwan.
“There is a need to review the consular functions being performed by MECO as there have been reports that its employees are being treated as political appointees under its ‘new management’”, Pimentel said.
Pimentel said that though the Philippines “respects the person to person” relationship with the inhabitants of Taiwan through MECO, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is a non-governmental entity, and therefore its employees enjoy security of tenure in accordance with the Constitution and labor laws.
Pimentel said that reports reached him that the new management is insisting that they be given a free hand to appoint their own people.
He said that treating MECO employees as political appointees “may result in removing the status of MECO as a private corporation and it may considered a government-controlled entity performing diplomatic functions in Taiwan”, which violates the One China rule.
He said that in this period of friendship and cooperation, “China and Philippines should endeavor to maintain the peace and respect including avoiding tensions and issues that may endanger relationships.”
Under Senate Resolution No. 302 filed by Pimentel, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is directed to conduct a probe in aid of legislation on the legal basis of MECO and its authority “to perform diplomatic and consular functions.”
“There is a need to review the consular functions being performed by MECO as a ‘private corporation’ by virtue of mere executive order of the President in order to determine its legality and its implication to the One China Policy,” Pimentel said in the resolution.
Pimentel said there might be some policies and procedures being practiced by MECO which may be in violation of the One China Policy.
Pimentel also wants to look into the Philippine government’s role in the appointment of “political appointees”, such as the Chairman, Resident Representative of MECO, and other officers.
As part of the One-China Policy, the Philippine government cannot maintain any form of government-to-government contact with Taiwan.