The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was in damage control mode yesterday after Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Manila’s decision to appoint a new immigration chief — hailed by Taipei as a major move in a diplomatic spat over a controversial deportation last month — was not connected with the case.
On Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said the appointment of Ricardo David Jr to replace Ronaldo Ledesma as commissioner of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration showed that Manila “has shown goodwill and regret” over the extradition to China of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects on Feb. 2. As a result, Yang announced that Taiwan would relax some visa application requirements for Philippine workers imposed in retaliation for the deportation.
However, Lacierda said the change was unrelated to the crisis.
“It was never in response to or in a way of appeasing the Taiwanese officials or the Taiwan government on what happened during the recent deportation incident. It is not related to that,” Lacierda told a press conference yesterday.
In a press release on the Web site of the Office of the President of the Philippines on Wednesday, Lacierda said: “David’s appointment has nothing to do with the Philippine-Taiwan rift ... [David] was already being considered by the President even before the controversy started.”
Ger Bau-shuan (葛葆萱), deputy director-general of the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said yesterday that Manila had told Taipei that the replacement was related to the crisis and was trying to determine why the spokesman said otherwise.
Later yesterday, Yang said the spokesman did not understand the reasons behind the replacement as he was out of the loop during negotiations on the matter.
“My understanding from the Philippines was that the presidential office spokesman did not understand the whole situation in the decision-making process, which led him to make such comments,” Yang said.
Amadeo Perez Jr, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, had already clarified Lacierda’s comments, Yang said.
“Perez told us that he understood the situation and that the reshuffle of the Bureau of Immigration’s personnel was related to the deportation,” Yang said.
Meanwhile, ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) said Philippine Senator Manuel Roxas II would soon return to Taiwan to explain his government’s position on the matter.
Additional reporting by staff writer