Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) yesterday said that the bureau would not encourage people to travel to the Philippines after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a “red” travel alert for the country.
If tourists needed to cancel trips following the adjustment in the alert level, Chang said that travel agencies would be required to refund any tour charges after deducting indispensable costs, such as visa application fees or airfares.
Chang said that the bureau had met with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), as well as travel agents yesterday to discuss the matter. He said that the CAA would also discuss with Taiwanese airlines the possibility of issuing fare refunds if people choose to cancel trips, including charter flights.
Although the CAA has no authority over Philippine airlines, it has asked such airlines to consider refunding customers given the circumstances.
Meanwhile, Chang said the bureau would not encourage travel agents to form tour groups heading to the Philippines, even though it cannot completely ban the practice.
Though the bureau had previously tried to attract more Philippine tourists, Chang said it would stop attending the Philippine Travel Tour Expo and suspend scouting tours it organized for Philippine travel agents for next month and July.
Last year, about 105,000 Filipinos came to Taiwan, although only about one-fifth came for tourism purposes.
On the other hand, about 211,000 Taiwanese visited the Philippines, 70 percent of whom were tourists.
The expansion of tourism sanctions on the Philippines could cost the Philippines at least NT$3.75 billion (US$125 million) in lost tourism revenue, the bureau said.
Meanwhile, the government said its decision to impose a hiring freeze on Filipino workers would cost about 3,000 Filipinos each month the opportunity to work in Taiwan.
The Council of Labor Affairs’ Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training said the measure would suspend application procedures for Filipinos and prevent Filipinos who have already received work permits from entering the country.
There are an estimated 87,000 Filipinos currently working in Taiwan in the manufacturing, construction and fishing sectors, and also as home nurses and caregivers.
About 35,000 Filipinos arrive every year to work in Taiwan.
The bureau did not expect that its hiring freeze would hurt employers because they are still able to hire workers from other countries. Currently, Taiwan allows workers from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mongolia.
Chang Chih-yuan (張致遠), secretary-general of the Allied Association for Science Park Industries, said several companies in major industrial parks have voiced support for the government’s punitive measures against the Philippines.
Chang said that 4,200 Filipinos are currently employed in the Hsinchu Science Park, accounting for about 90 percent of its total foreign employees.
Another 3,800 Filipinos work in two other major science parks in central and southern Taiwan, he said, adding that they are primarily employed by integrated -circuit packaging and testing firms.
Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc has 1,500 Filipino employees, while Siliconware Precision Industries Co has 2,000 and ChipMOS Technology Inc has between 500 and 600, comprising 15 percent of its total workforce.
The companies said the freeze on bringing Filipino workers to Taiwan was not expected to have an adverse effect on their operations in the short term, but could compromise their labor sources and increase their labor costs if it persists.
Innolux Corp and AU Optronics Corp, two of Taiwan’s largest flat panel firms, said the punitive measure will not hurt their operations because Filipino workers only represent a small fraction of their workforces.
Wu Ying-liang (吳胤良), manager of the Taishin Ta-chong Equity Fund, said that because local enterprises still can hire foreign workers from other countries, the punitive action is unlikely to be felt on the local bourse.