VWP expected this year
The US is expected to extend the its visa-waiver program (VWP) to Taiwan in the second half of this year, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday. “Granting Taiwan visa-waiver privileges will make Taiwanese more willing to travel to the US. If we can solve the issue by the second half of this year, it will also help improve the balance of trade between the two countries,” he said when meeting with a US delegation led by US Representative Mike Honda at the Presidential Office. Taiwan was nominated for the program in December last year, pending a review of the nation’s homeland security and immigration system by the US government. If Taiwan is admitted to the VWP, it will become the fifth Asian country to enter the program after Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Brunei.
Foreign visitors hit record
The number of international visitors to Taiwan soared to a record 990,000 in the first two months of this year, according to the latest statistics released by the Tourism Bureau. The figure represents year-on-year growth of 15.4 percent, with a daily average of 16,000 visitors from more than 10 countries, the statistics showed. The highest growth was among Chinese visitors (39.9 percent), who accounted for 304,000 of the total. Japanese visitors were in second place, with 9.2 percent growth and making up 227,000 of the total. Double-digit growth was also recorded for visitors from other countries and areas, including Hong Kong, Macau, the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, France and South Korea.
Sailor rescued off Japan
A Taiwanese sailor who was aboard a missing Hong Kong-registered cargo ship has been rescued by the Japanese coast guard, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman James Chang (章計平) said on Thursday. The vessel’s eleven crew members, including the Taiwanese, were rescued from two lifeboats that were floating in waters more than 100km southwest of the Japanese island of Amami Oshima, Chang said, citing officials at Taiwan’s representative office in Fukuoka, Japan. According to Japanese media reports, none of the rescued crewmen had sustained injuries and they all seemed to be in good spirits. Chang said the Taiwanese crewman is expected to return to Taiwan after Japanese authorities finalize their investigation into the cause of the sinking. The 4,143-tonne New Lucky VII was carrying lumber from Papua New Guinea to China when it lost contact in rough seas on Tuesday, according to a report by NHK.
Student wins US prize
A Taiwanese student in the US won the Best Commercial prize at the 33rd College Television Awards earlier this month. Cheng Kai-chung (鄭凱中), a student at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, was selected for his commercial titled “Voodoo Bear.” Cheng’s commercial uses black humor and features an ordinary office worker who tries to outwit his co-workers, but cannot. “Voodoo Bear” won from a field of about 400 entries. Cheng, the first Asian student to win in the category, said he hoped to inspire people through his work and to one day make a movie that uses comedy to highlight serious issues. There were more than 1,000 entries in 12 categories this year at the annual awards, which honor the best student-produced work in video, digital and film production in the US.