Manila to send special envoy to settle deportation row

The China Post news staff & CNA

The Philippines government will send a special envoy to Taiwan to seek a concrete solution to the diplomatic row with Taiwan has arisen from the Feb. 2 deportation of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to mainland China, Antonio Basilio, head of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, said yesterday in an interview with the Central News Agency (CNA). Basilio said that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has instructed the relevant parties to settle the case as soon as possible.

Basilio didn’t reveal the candidate for the special envoy or when the envoy will come to Taiwan. But he mentioned that former Philippine President Fidel Ramos was originally scheduled to visit Taiwan in early November, and if Ramos is designated as the special envoy, he may come to Taiwan ahead of original schedule.

The de facto Philippines ambassador continued that if Taiwan and the Philippines set up a mechanism for judicial assistance, both sides will be able to smoothly handle similar cross-border crime cases.

In related news, Basilio yesterday failed to attend a grand evening party hosted by President Ma Ying-jeou for foreign ambassadors or representatives stationed in Taiwan at the Grand Hotel Taipei.

Also yesterday, Taiwan threatened to implement a second stage of punitive action against the Philippines, saying that the Southeast Asian country had made an inaccurate statement in explaining its decision to deport 14 Taiwan nationals to China last week.

The Philippines classification of the 14 Taiwanese suspects in a fraud case as “undocumented” was inaccurate because their passports had been confiscated and Taiwan’s representative office in Manila had provided the Philippine authorities with new identification documents, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman James Chang said in a press briefing.

“We are considering taking further action against the Philippines if it does not recognize its wrongdoing in the incident,” Chang said, but did not specify what measures were being considered.

Furthermore, the case should have been handled based on the Philippines’ domestic laws rather than its one-China policy, Chang said.

Philippine Presidential Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said in a radio interview Wednesday that the decision to deport all of the fraud suspects — 14 Taiwanese and 10 Chinese — to China was an observance of the Philippines’ “one China policy.”

Later in the day, Philippines’ Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the government stood by the explanation given by Ochoa.

The row broke out Feb. 2 when the Philippines deported to China the 24 suspects who had been arrested late last year on charges of cross-border fraud against Chinese nationals.

Taiwan, which had been trying to have the 14 Taiwanese in the case repatriated, said the Philippines had acted inappropriately.

The issue escalated during the past week as officials on both sides exchanged tough talk.

Taiwan announced Monday that it would recall its envoy in Manila, tighten visa regulations for Philippine nationals seeking to work in Taiwan and cancel visa privileges for some Philippine citizens.

Philippines Minister of Justice Leila De Lima told Taiwan’s representative to Manila Donald Lee that certain actions by the Bureau of Immigration before the deportation were regrettable, according to Chang.

However, Taiwan expects the Philippines to show “more goodwill” to resolve the diplomatic stalemate, Chang said.

Taiwan will continue to plan its moves based on the Philippines’ actions, he said.