Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Row not resolved: Aquino

AFP, MANILA

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III yesterday said the Philippines had not resolved a row with Taiwan over deportations, as Taipei threatened to stop hiring Philippine workers.

Aquino sent a special envoy to Taipei on Monday to explain why Manila had earlier this month deported 24 fraud suspects to China — including 14 Taiwanese — over allegations they had conned Chinese citizens.

“It appears the mission was not successful,” Aquino told reporters. “They [Taipei] were asking for us to apologize and I don’t believe that there is something we have to apologize for, given the circumstances.”

Manila had said it did the right thing by acting on an Interpol alert, arresting the suspects and deporting them to China after Taiwan and the suspects failed to produce identity papers showing they were from Taiwan.

Taiwanese officials said Philippine police confiscated the Taiwanese passports, something Manila later admitted to.

“China came to us and told us of the existence of these syndicates preying on their citizens. We arrested [the suspects], we gathered evidence. We were sending a message that the Philippines was not a safe haven for criminals,” he said.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed his anger on Tuesday in a meeting in Taipei with Manuel Roxas, Aquino’s envoy.

Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) later told reporters Taiwan was mulling a freeze on the hiring of Philippine workers in retaliation, although a final decision had yet to be made.

“If they freeze hires, we will ... look for other places for -deployment. There are other territories for instance that have signified [their] desire to hire overseas Filipino workers,” Aquino said without elaborating.

Manila’s economic and cultural office in Taipei will pursue efforts to resolve the deportation row, he said.

Roxas later told reporters it was clear that Ma wanted an apology.

“His words were very carefully chosen. The talks were frank and difficult, but respectful on both sides. They made it clear this was a deep wound to them,” Roxas said.

“Relations with Taiwan have not worsened,” he said, adding that he had secured an assurance the rights of some 70,000 Philippine workers already in Taiwan would be respected.

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