Taipei, April. 3 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday called on the Philippines not to deport to China 78 Taiwanese fraud suspects arrested in that country in January, citing long-standing practice and bilateral judicial cooperation between the two countries.
In a statement, MOFA urged Manila to cherish the friendship between the two countries.
Citing an existing bilateral agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and a memorandum of understanding on combating transnational crime, MOFA called on the Philippine authorities to send the suspects back to Taiwan instead of the other side of the Taiwan Strait.
Manila should also respect the wish of the Taiwanese suspects and honor the nationality principle by deporting them back to Taiwan to avoid undermining bilateral ties, it added.
The 78 suspects were among 158 individuals arrested in the Philippines on Jan. 13 for their alleged involvement in fraudulent telecom activities, according to MOFA. Of the the 158, 73 were found to be Chinese nationals and have already been sent back to China. The Taiwanese suspects are still being detained in the Philippines.
A previous fraud case in 2011 involving Taiwanese nationals in the Philippines triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries after Manila deported 14 Taiwanese to China on Feb. 2, 2011.
Taipei protested the action and asked Manila to apologize for what Taiwan said was a lack of respect for its rights of jurisdiction.
The month-long controversy only concluded after then Philippine President Benigno Aquino III twice sent a special envoy to Taipei to explain his government's stance and removed top immigration officials, bringing the diplomatic row to an end.