MANILA, Philippines – Taiwan said it is ready to lose up to P400 million ($8 million) a year once it allows Filipinos to enter Taiwanese territory visa-free starting September this year.
Taiwan's representative to the Philippines, Dr Gary Song-Huann Lin said Taiwan is willing to let go of these earnings to boost ties with the Philippines.
"From our perspective, money is not really that important because we can always make money in the future. But most important is the friendship between our two peoples," Lin said in an interview with reporters Friday, May 19.
A single-entry visa to Taiwan costs P2,400 ($48) and a multiple-entry visa is worth P4,800 ($96).
Lin said that in 2016, around 200,000 tourists from the Philippines visited Taiwan.
In contrast, he said, around 700,000 Filipino tourists visited Hong Kong, even as "Taiwan is much bigger than Hong Kong" and has a wider variety of tourist attractions to offer.
"I believe Taiwan should be discovered because Taiwan has been overlooked for so long. So maybe it is the time for the Filipinos to consider Taiwan as one of the tourist destinations with the visa-free mechanism in place," he said.
Sorry for postponement
One concern of tourists recently was the postponement of Taiwan's visa-free privilege for Filipinos.
Taiwan earlier said Filipinos can enjoy the visa-free privilege starting June this year, but due to administrative concerns, the Taiwanese government postponed this to September.
For a number of tourists, the problem is that they have already booked tickets to Taiwan without applying for visas, thinking that the visa-free privilege will be in place by June.
"We apologize for the inconvenience which was caused by the postponement of the visa-free entry to Taiwan," Lin said.
The Taiwanese representative offered to help Filipinos affected by the postponed visa-free privilege. (Watch the video below for details.)
He said affected travelers can go to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in RCBC Plaza, Makati City, with "all the documents they have" and their ticket to Taiwan.
"I will direct my colleagues to assist them and to sort them out very quickly. And also, if necessary, we will let the airline companies try to facilitate," Lin said. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P49.69
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.