THE Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) in the Philippines is hoping that the number of Filipino tourists in Taiwan will double to more than half-a-million by end of 2018, following its announcement of the visa-free privilege extension until July 31, 2019.
Based on figures from the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan, Filipinos who visited the island-state reached 290,784 last year—68.59 percent higher than the 172,475 recorded in 2016.
The figure has so far increased by 60.36 percent, which reached a total of 190,791 in the first five months of 2018, compared to 118,980 posted from January to May 2017.
“I know it’s difficult to have a double number. But I’m anticipating that [there will be] a tremendous increase this year,” Teco Economic Division Director Alfred Y.H. Wang told the BusinessMirror in a sideline interview during the 2018 Taiwan Healthcare Industry Trade Meeting held recently.
The visa-waiver program for Filipinos started in November 2017 and was supposed to run until July of this year. With the same 14-day stay privilege, the continued trial period of the “no-visa” policy for 12 months will then be reviewed afterward for further extension, depending on the result and efficiency of the program.
“It will be decided by our government,” Wang said. “I think until now, everything [is going] as we wish. So it’s quite successful. Hopefully, it will be extended again.”
The nearest neighbors
The Taiwanese government has decided to give visa exemption to Filipinos for another year as a show of goodwill and friendship under the “New Southbound Policy,” which aims to build stronger bilateral ties and a closer link between the two neighboring countries.
“We try to do our most friendly treatment for the Filipino friends. We are not so close before, but actually we are nearest neighbors. We should have more communication, including personal exchanges. So we do the visa waiver to encourage your people to come to Taiwan and [open our lines to] more communications,” Wang stated.
Teco is also expecting the same gesture from its local counterpart, according to the Taiwanese economic division director. In fact, he bared that they have also requested the Manila Economic and Cultural Office to give his countrymen who are visiting the Philippines a complementary treatment for the waiver.
“Until now, we are still discussing: [What] is the feedback? They always say they are studying [it]. But I think the main reason for their studying [for] such a long time is the budget. So we respect their side. But we wish to have the reciprocal treatment,” he said.
Should it push through, the Teco executive sees it beneficial for an improved two-way tourism in both countries, considering that Taiwan is currently the Philippines’s sixth top source of tourists, with nearly 60,000 visitors in the first quarter of this year.
Mecca for medical treatment
A growing number of Filipinos are drawn annually to their neighbor to the north, not only because of its various tourism sites, but also to seek medical care and treatment.
Recent data revealed that more than 300,000 overseas patients came to Taiwan for medical attention in 2016—one-fourth of whom came from Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.
Offering cutting-edge medical techniques and comparatively affordable prices, Taiwan’s medical industry has been ranked as third in the world and is consistently recognized as among industry leaders in terms of innovation capability, global competitiveness, enterprise support and entrepreneurship.
“We would like to invite more Filipino friends to come and enjoy the advantage of Taiwan’s medical service. I’m sure they will like it,” Taiwan Nobel Eye Institute CEO Dr. David ChaoKai Chang exhorted.
Chang made the invitation during the 2018 Taiwan Healthcare Industry Trade Meeting, dubbed “Enjoy a healthier life with Taiwan medical services,” which the Taiwan External Trade Development Council organized.
During the event, Taiwanese companies took the stage to share their experience and research on the topics of Taiwan health care and medical services, as well as medical technologies related to cancer treatment and genetic testing.