The Philippine representative office in Taiwan has issued a statement about the Philippine government’s deportation of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China. In response to the statement, which did not include an apology, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would cancel preferential treatment allowing Filipino citizens holding visas to the US, Canada, the UK and Schengen countries to register online for visa-free entry to Taiwan, implement stricter screening of applications for the hiring of Philippine workers and recall Representative to Manila Donald Lee (李傳通).
The deportation of Taiwanese to China is unprecedented and has an impact on Taiwan because it ignores Taiwan’s existence as a country. It also implies that any citizen of the Republic of China (ROC) traveling abroad runs the risk of being deported to China for conflicts with Chinese or carrying out acts that have an impact on China.
This means that Taiwanese traveling abroad would not enjoy any of the protection afforded by Taiwanese law and their freedoms may be restricted by Chinese law as a result of Beijing’s pressure.
The government must exert all effort to ensure that Manila apologizes to avoid other -countries following suit. However, the government’s decisions have not been transparent and they have taken an odd direction.
First, I cannot understand why the government would cancel the preferential treatment of Filipinos holding North American and European visas. That move seems to me to have missed the target.
Although the Philippines is a relatively poor country, it also has a lot of wealthy people, and it is very likely that this is the kind of person who also holds a US or European visa. Visits to Taiwan by these people for tourism or business purposes should be facilitated rather than restricted — unless someone thinks we have too many tourists visiting Taiwan.
Second, every year about 77,000 Filipinos come to work in Taiwan. This is an area where sanctions would be more effective. The Council of Labor Affairs has said that in accordance with the nation’s foreign policy, it will raise the personnel level who screens and approves work applications for Filipinos to a deputy minister or higher.
The Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法) specifies a maximum of four months for reviewing and approving applications. That in effect means that the arrival of such workers to Taiwan could be delayed by four months.
However, item 3-1 in Article 3 of the Administrative Procedure Act states that it does not apply to “acts in relation to matters concerning diplomacy.”
The current incident is a matter of diplomatic concern and therefore the time restraints stipulated in the Administrative Procedure Act do not apply.
It should be possible to make a strong statement by suspending review of any applications from Filipino workers until Manila issues an apology, unless approval to hire a foreign worker has already been obtained, if a worker who is already in Taiwan is rehired or in emergency cases. This would demonstrate the seriousness of the matter and the government’s determination.
Finally, recalling Taipei’s envoy to the Philippines might seem like a forceful response, but a closer look shows it to be a weak response and one that might even send the wrong signals to Manila.
After the sinking of a Taiwanese fishing boat off the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) by a Japanese coast guard vessel in June 2008, Taiwan’s envoy to Japan was recalled on June 14, and by the 15th he had already returned to Taiwan. The foreign ministry announced that if no satisfactory answer was forthcoming, the envoy would not return to Japan. That is how you recall an envoy to display your dissatisfaction.