TAIPEI — Taiwan announced Tuesday it has signed a crime-fighting pact with the Philippines following a spate of Internet scams that ruffled ties between the two governments.
The agreement is aimed at cracking down on criminals who exploit the lack of official diplomatic relations between the two sides, and could pave the way for similar accords with other Southeast Asian countries.
Raymond Wang, of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila, and his Philippine counterpart Antonio Basilio, inked the mutual legal assistance agreement in Taipei on Friday, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The pact has set a precedent for more of such agreements the country is seeking in the Southeast Asia,” it said.
Under the deal, the two sides agree to assist each other in gathering evidence, freezing property owned by suspects, and deportations.
Negotiations came about following a diplomatic row in February 2011 when the Philippine government deported to the mainland 14 Taiwanese and 10 other Chinese suspects, who were arrested on allegations of swindling $20 million in an international scam targeting mainland China.
Taipei insisted that the Taiwanese suspects should have been sent back to the island to face justice and threatened to freeze the hiring of Filipino workers.
The dispute ended only after Manila sacked officials involved in the deportation of the Taiwanese nationals to China.
Since that time, there have been several similar scams involving Taiwanese based in the Philippines.
There are more than 80,000 Philippine workers in Taiwan, sending home hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, although Beijing claims the island. The Philippines has formal ties with China only but maintains economic and cultural links with Taiwan.