TAIPEI (The China Post) – President Tsai Ing-wen responded to Kaohsiung Mayor Han’s controversial remarks in a Facebook post on March 9, hoping to lower bilateral tensions amid the government’s “New Southbound Policy.”

The incident unfolded a day earlier following a business group meeting, during which leaders proposed to introduce talents from the Philippines to promote Taiwan’s bilingual policy. A suggestion that Mayor Han rejected: “How come Marias are becoming our teachers?”

His comment infuriated Angelito Banayo, the representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, as he remarked that the term “Maria” has a negative connotation to Filipino workers.

In response to the bold comment, President Tsai highlighted her New Southbound Policy again: “The Philippines is a key partner under our New Southbound Policy, and in 2018 the number of people flying from the Philippines to Taiwan hit 419,105, an increase of 44% from the previous year.”

She further stressed that the New Southbound Policy has increased Taiwan’s trade and cultural exchanges with the targeted countries in hopes of making peace between Taiwan and the Philippines.