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Kaohsiung Mayor apologizes for calling Filipinos 'Marias'

2019/03/09 19:10:38

Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜)/CNA file photo

Taipei, March 9 (CNA) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Saturday apologized for a recent remark in which he referred to Filipinos as "Marias," saying the term, considered by many to be a racial slur, was a slip of the tongue.

The mayor said he did not intend to denigrate the Filipino people, according to a statement from Kaohsiung City Government.

Han was sorry for the misunderstanding caused by his misuse of the term and said he looks forward to future cooperation with the Philippines, it added.

Responding to a proposal that Taiwan could hire bilingual Filipino white-collar workers at a conference on Wednesday, the mayor said employing "Marias" as teachers would be a psychological shock for Taiwanese.

His comment led to an outcry and Philippine representative to Taiwan, Angelito Tan Banayo, expressed "deep regret" over Han's choice of words.

"We particularly take exception to your use of the term 'Marias' in reference to our citizens, a terminology that has earned negative undertones when used to refer to foreign workers," the representative said in a letter to Han, a copy of which was released to CNA.

The letter, dated March 7, underscores the country's advantage in English by saying "the Philippines is the fourth largest English-speaking country in the world, with at least 92 percent of the population able to speak it as a second language."

"The Philippine government strives to achieve the highest degree of standards for our compatriots who have chosen to work overseas in order to sufficiently provide for their families at home, thereby also improving the quality of their contributions to their host country's nation building," Banayo said.

In comments directed at Han's controversial remarks, Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka (谷辣斯‧尤達卡), who comes from the indigenous Amis community, on Friday urged an end to race-based discrimination, saying as a child she was called Maria by her classmates because of her dark skin.

"Let us put an end to the discrimination against Maria," she said in a Facebook post in honor of International Women's Day.

(By Chen Ja-fo, Yeh Su-ping and Chung Yu-chen)
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