Taiwan threatens Philippines labor freeze

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 22 2011 01:54 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2011 09:54 PM

TAIPEI - Taiwan expressed anger on Tuesday over the Philippines' refusal to apologize for deporting 14 Taiwanese to China and threatened to freeze the hiring of Philippine workers.

"Taiwan's government and people are strongly angered," President Ma Ying-jeou said through an interpreter while meeting in Taipei with Manuel Roxas, an unofficial envoy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Ma reiterated Taiwan's demand that the Philippines "take responsibility for its mistakes" and apologize, local television footage showed.

Roxas, who arrived on Monday in an attempt to cool the row, has so far only said "we deeply regret" this incident during talks with Ma and Taiwan's foreign minister Timothy Yang, according to the foreign ministry.

His mission was however complicated by comments made in Manila by Aquino's spokesman, who said the Philippines would not apologise for the incident, which saw the 14 suspected fraudsters deported to China against Taipei's wishes.

Taiwan is mulling a freeze on the hiring of Philippine workers in retaliation, although a final decision is yet to be made, labour minister Wang Ju-hsuan told reporters earlier Tuesday.

A labor official told Agence France-Presse that Taipei is "very likely" to impose the freeze after President Ma expressed fury over the deportations.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, although Beijing claims the island. The Philippines maintains formal ties with China only but pursues economic and cultural links with Taiwan.

Taipei has already raised the screening period for Philippine workers to a maximum of 4 months.

There are about 70,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan, sending home hundreds of millions of dollars a year.