MANILA, February 16, 2011 (AFP) – A row over 14 Taiwanese deported by the Philippines to China is an issue between Beijing and Taipei and does not involve Manila, a government minister said Wednesday.

The Taiwanese were arrested and deported along with 10 Chinese suspects last month after they allegedly swindled $20 million in an international scam targeting mainland Chinese.

Taiwan expressed fury and told Manila they should have been sent back to face justice on the island instead.

However Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the anger was misplaced as all the requirements for their expulsion were met.

“Taiwan and Beijing are supposed to have this 2009 cross-straits agreement on crime fighting and mutual judicial assistance where they can really settle matters like this,” de Lima said in an interview with local television.

“The Philippines is not a party to that. It is now up to Taiwan and Beijing to settle that matter (between) themselves,” she said, reiterating that the Philippines would not apologise over the incident.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, although Beijing views the island as a breakaway province and vows to take it back, by force if necessary.

Like most countries, the Philippines recognises only the Beijing government, although it maintains economic and cultural ties with Taiwan.

Taiwanese officials have accused the Philippines of bowing to Chinese pressure.

De Lima said the Chinese authorities had produced “Interpol red notices, international arrest warrants,” to justify the arrest and deportation of all 24 suspects to the mainland.

She also said the Taiwanese could not produce any passports showing their place of origin.

Philippine investigators also asked the Taiwan cultural office in Manila to show the suspects’ passports but they did not comply, de Lima added.

She expressed hope that Taiwan would not take out its anger on the 80,000 Filipino expatriate workers there.

“We can only appeal to Taiwan that they can only understand the wisdom of what we do,” she said.