Taiwan extends visa-free privileges for PH, Thailand, Brunei until July 2019
Taipei — Visitors from Thailand, Brunei, and the Philippines will have visa-free privileges for another year until July 31, 2019, according to a Taiwan official.
The decision to extend the trial period of visa-free privileges to the three Southeast Asian nations was reached at an inter-ministerial meeting earlier this month, Minister without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen told the state-run Central News Agency on June 27.
Maximum of 14 days
Chang said Filipinos will still be allowed to stay in Taiwan for a maximum of 14 days.
Thailand and Brunei, however, will be granted only 14 days maximum, compared to 30 days when the program started.
Taiwan, the Philippines’ closest neighbor, began its visa-free trial program for Filipinos in November last year. The trial period was supposed to end on July 31 this year.
Because of the program, the number of Filipinos going to Taiwan increased from 172,475 in 2016 to 290,784 last year, according to the CNA citing statistics from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau.
Thanks to the visa-free privileges, the number of Philippine visitors to Taiwan increased from 172,475 in 2016 to 290,784 in 2017, while arrivals from Thailand soared from 195,640 to 292,534 over the same period.
Decline in tourist arrivals
Despite the good results, Taiwan saw a 4.72-percent decline in tourist arrivals in April 2018 compared with the same period last year.
Still, the minister said no other country will be added to its visa waiver trial program at this time, citing “border security, social order, and illegal immigration concerns.”
Data released earlier this month by the Tourism Bureau show that the number of foreign visitors to Taiwan in April 2018 was just over 883,000, including a decline in the number of visitors from Hong Kong/Macau (35.75 percent) and South Korea (21 percent), and an increase in visitor arrivals from Southeast Asia (14 percent).
Chang said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Agency are also examining other ways of making visits to Taiwan more convenient, such as expanding the electronic visa system and granting visa-free or visa on arrival privileges to passengers on charter flights.
Tourism is part of Taiwan government’s drive to push its “New Southbound Policy” that seeks to boost economic ties with 18 countries in the Southeast and South Asian regions, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Australia and New Zealand. — with Anthony Q. Esguerra/vvp/INQUIRER.net
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