The Philippines did not mention anything about its “one China” policy during Taiwan’s negotiations with Philippine officials to bring back 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects, who were eventually deported to China, Taiwan’s representative to Manila said yesteday.
“The ‘one China’ policy has never been mentioned during our negotiations with the Philippine authorities,” Representative to the Philippines Donald Lee (李傳通) said at a press conference after returning to Taipei earlier in the day after the government decided to recall him in protest at the Philippines’ deportation of the Taiwanese suspects to China
Several Philippine politicians, including Philippine Presidential Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, had said the Southeast Asian country’s decision to send all the suspects to China was out of respect for Manila’s “one China” policy.
The comments have drawn criticism from Taiwan’s government and lawmakers.
Lee did not answer a reporter’s question as to whether he agreed that the Philippines’ decision was not politically motivated.
At the press conference, Lee explained what he and his staff had done since the suspects were arrested on Dec. 27. He said the Philippines held a hearing on the case on Feb. 1 without notifying Taiwan’s representative office in Manila. Lee added that according to his understanding, China had dispatched people to attend that hearing.
Lee added that several of the detainees complained that they had been robbed by the Philippine authorities after being arrested and lost their cellphones, cameras and cash.
While denying allegations from Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers that he had not done his best to prevent the Philippines from sending the Taiwanese to China, Lee said he has asked to be reprimanded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because he failed to stop the deportation.
In addition to the decision to recall Lee, Taipei also tightened screening of applications by Filipino’s seeking to work in the nation and suspended visa-waiver privileges for some Philippine citizens.
The government said the Philippines had disrespected Taipei’s position on the issue and had not apologized for the incident.
Manila stuck to its stance that it does not need to apologize to Taipei.
Antonio Basilio, managing director of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office — the Philippines’ representative office in Taiwan — said Philippine Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima did apologize to Lee for what Lee described as discourtesy and impropriety of action during the Bureau of Immigration’s handling of the case.
However, “Secretary De Lima did not apologize for the actual deportation of the 14 Taiwanese to China,” he said.
Basilio added that Ochoa’s comment was not the position of the Philippine government and the decision on the deportation of the -Taiwanese to China was not related to politics and sovereignty.
Taiwan could have claimed jurisdiction over the Taiwanese if its authorities had pressed charges or filed warrants for the suspects before their deportation, he said.
Basilio said he could see a “silver lining” for Taiwan-Philippines relations, which he said could be repaired if both sides tone down their rhetoric and enter discussions.
“We are taking Taiwan seriously, but we have our own national interests to protect,” Basilio said.