Taiwan recalled its representative to the Philippines yesterday over what Taipei calls the “inappropriate” deportation to China of Taiwanese citizens arrested in connection with a fraud investigation, after Manila issued a statement asking for the “warmth and kinship” between the two sides to not be affected by the incident.
Taiwan decided to recall its envoy in Manila, Donald Lee (李傳通), this week, to strictly screen the applications of Philippine nationals who wish to work in Taiwan and, effective yesterday, to cancel -preferential treatment for Philippine nationals to file visa applications online, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang (楊進添) said yesterday.
The recall added a new element to the tense dispute between Taiwan and the Philippine government, which ignored Taiwan’s requests and sent 14 Taiwanese and 10 Chinese citizens — all of whom were arrested late last year on charges of cross-border fraud against Chinese nationals — to China on a charter flight on Feb. 2.
Yang, who had said Taiwan’s reaction would depend on the Philippines’ response, was apparently not happy with the information he received yesterday.
The Manila Economic and -Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei issued a statement earlier in the day saying that the Philippines “deeply regrets” the involvement of Taiwanese nationals in the case and “the reactions of the Taiwanese authorities as well as the public’s feelings over the actions taken.”
MECO officials said in the long-awaited statement, which had been expected on Friday, that the actions “were taken considering that all the victims are Chinese, all the accomplices are Chinese and the results can be best settled in China.”
There was no suggestion of the apology the Taiwanese government had expected in the statement.
“It should be noted that there exists an extradition treaty between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines. We also note that there is an agreement between Taiwan and mainland China on Anti-crime Efforts and Judicial Assistance under which both sides can cooperate in this case,” the statement said.
While the Philippines recognizes China and has no official relations with Taiwan, it has been seeking to boost trade ties with Taiwan.
MECO officials said they hoped the deportations would not affect the “warmth and kinship” between Filipinos and Taiwanese.
“We wish to assure you that the Philippines will continue to welcome Taiwanese friends and protect their rights as law-abiding visitors,” the statement said.
Officials from Taiwan’s National Police Agency said on Sunday that the agency has been in contact with its Chinese counterpart to negotiate the repatriation of the 14 Taiwanese.
Opposition lawmakers said that the Taiwanese were sent to China instead of back to Taiwan was an indication of the incompetence of the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which has been stymied by its policy of “stopping war on the diplomatic front.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh- peng (高志鵬) said that Ma has not uttered a word on the incident, completely resigning himself to allowing Taiwan to be treated poorly.
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said Ma has been complacent with his “modus vivendi” diplomatic strategy, but over the past two to three years China has continued in its efforts to isolate Taiwan.