Taipei to lift punitive sanctions on Manila

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2011, 12:00am

Taiwan will soon lift all punitive sanctions on the Philippines, ending a row that has lasted more than a month over Manila's deportation of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to the mainland to face prosecution.

The latest development came after the Philippines sacked two senior immigration officials and again expressed 'deep regrets', actions seen by Taiwan's authorities as 'a kind of apology'.

The rift between the two governments opened early last month after Manila ignored a deportation request from Taipei and sent the Taiwanese suspects to Beijing to face charges over their alleged involvement in massive phone frauds on the mainland.

'We expect that our two sides will discuss follow-up measures, which we believe will facilitate the removal of the current measures,' Taiwanese Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said yesterday.

Taiwan imposed punitive measures including delaying by four months the screening of Filipino workers' employment applications, revoking the visa-waiver for Filipino visitors with visas issued by the US, European Union and other developed countries, and the recall of Taiwan's representative to Manila.

Yang said Philippine presidential envoy Manuel Roxas was expected to visit Taipei again next week to patch up relations. Roxas visited Taiwan late last month, but returned empty handed after Taipei refused to compromise and demanded that the Philippines issue a formal apology.

Yang suggested that the island would remove the measures after Roxas' next visit.

Wang Ju-hsuan, chairwoman of Taiwan's Council of Labour Affairs, said yesterday that the council would follow up on any foreign ministry action.

She said Taiwan had already removed a requirement that Filipino workers submit their social security system cards instead of other social security documents when applying for employment. The Philippine government abolished such cards some time ago.

The requirement was removed on Wednesday as a sign of reconciliation from Taiwan after Manila replaced its immigration chief and another senior immigration official in an apparent effort to resolve the dispute. A day before the immigration officers were replaced, the Philippines sent back a Taiwanese fugitive who had fled to Manila who was wanted for running a bogus lottery network in Taiwan.

The fugitive arrested in Manila was not linked to the 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects who were deported to Beijing along with 10 mainlanders to face phone fraud charges.

Taipei interpreted the moves as goodwill gestures from Manila, though the Philippines declined to link its recent actions and the row with Taiwan.

'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,' presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, referring to the sacking of the immigration officials.

Taiwan, however, regarded matters differently.

'The replacement and the deportation of the Taiwan national were positive moves that we have perceived as a kind of apology and deep regrets from the Philippines,' Yang said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said it requested that the mainland repatriate the 14 suspects in line with the cross-strait judicial co-operation agreement signed by the two sides last year.

Council chairwoman Lai Hsin-yuan said yesterday that through the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, which deals with the island, her council expressed concern over the mainland's handling of the suspects.

She said that as far as she understood, it would take the mainland some time to complete its investigation of the fraud case and return the Taiwanese suspects because it involved more than 400 mainland people from 21 provinces.

'But we have asked that the mainland side swiftly send them back as soon as the investigation is completed,' she said. Relatives of the suspects had recently been allowed to visit them on the mainland, she said.