Philippines considers visa office at Taoyuan airport

TOURISM::Manila has not yet granted Taiwan visa-waiver status because it wants to avoid worsening its relationship with China amid ongoing maritime disputes, a source said

Staff writer, with CNA, MANILA

Fri, Oct 05, 2012 - Page 5

The Philippines is considering setting up a visa office at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in the wake of Taiwan’s inclusion in the US’ Visa-Waiver Program, according to an official with the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

“We are studying the possibility of opening up an office in the airport in Taiwan for dispensing visas before departure,” said Amadeo Perez Jr, chairman of MECO, which represents the Philippines’ interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

While the Philippines does not grant Taiwan visa-waiver status, Perez said measures have been taken to ease visa application procedures for Taiwanese.

In August, the Philippines began issuing multiple-entry visas with a validity of up to one year to Republic of China passport holders, up from a previous validity of three to six months, he said.

Moreover, in the past, it took 24 hours for a visa to be issued, Perez said, but now Taiwanese can apply for a visa in the morning and expect to receive it after lunch.

He said the Philippines carefully scrutinizes visa issues related to Taiwanese, “because of incidents of Taiwanese being involved in cybercrimes.”

One MECO official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the reason the Philippines has yet to grant visa-waiver status to Taiwan was that it wants to avoid worsening a relationship with China that has become tense due to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said on the sidelines of the third ASEAN Maritime Forum in Manila earlier this week that the Philippines is still reviewing visa policies for Taiwan.

“We are hoping we will make them more open, so we will get more tourists to come to the Philippines,” he said, adding that no definite decisions have been made.

Taiwanese made 90,894 visits to the Philippines in the first five months of this year, up 34.88 percent from the same period of last year, MECO data show.