People and groups from tourism-related sectors in Taiwan and the Philippines are calling on the government to extend its visa-free entry program for Filipinos, which ends on July 31.
Representative to the Philippines Michael Hsu (徐佩勇) told Taiwanese business leaders at a meeting a few days ago in the Philippines that his office has been inundated with e-mails from Filipinos urging Taiwan to extend the program.
EVA Air, China Airlines and Philippine Airlines are among industry players hoping for the program to be extended, Hsu said.
The Philippine Travel Agencies Association and the Philippine Tour Operators Association also reportedly called on the Taiwan Representative Office to convey the widespread support for the program.
A 14-day visa-free entry program for Filipinos was implemented in November 2017 in line with the government’s New Southbound Policy and was extended for one year after the trial period ended on July 31 last year.
Earlier this month, Philippine Dental Association president Arleen Reyes thanked Taiwan for the privilege of visa-free entry during a courtesy call to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila.
The convenience of visa-free entry has encouraged many Filipinos to visit Taiwan, Reyes said, adding that the policy should be continued.
During the first two months of this year, 72,803 Philippine tourists visited Taiwan, a 31.37 percent increase from the same period last year, Tourism Bureau data showed.
Most Filipinos visiting Taiwan are young and not that well-off, so they usually plan their trips three to four months in advance to save on air fares, said a Taiwanese airline officer in Manila who requested anonymity.
He predicted a decline in ticket sales in coming months if the program’s future remains uncertain. Potential visitors might turn to other Southeast Asian countries or even Australia instead of Taiwan, he said.
Jay Lee (李韋憲), a Taiwanese who teaches Chinese in Manila, said that many of his students had visited Taiwan over the past two years, adding: “The visa-free treatment really made a difference.”
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