The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on Saturday said it is confident the Philippines will not lose its visa-free entry privileges in Taiwan after a Taiwanese official said it could be extended annually.
Filipinos are currently eligible for the visa exemption program for a stay of up to 14 days, except those holding diplomatic or official/service passports until July 31.
Peiyung Hsu, a representative from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines had said this could be extended “because people to people connectivity is so important.”
MECO chairperson Silvestre Bello III said Taiwan needs Filipinos not only for the tourism sector, but other business sectors as well.
“We were informed that there might be some policy changes pero hanggang ngayon wala pa naman and I am still confident yung ating visa-free privilege will not be discarded kasi kailangan nila ang mga Pilipino,” Bello told reporters in a briefing.
Bello, a former labor secretary, said he was not keen on requesting the duration of the visa-free stay there to be lengthened.
Taiwan is targeting to attract at least 200,000 Filipino tourists to Taiwan as well as 200,000 Taiwanese tourists to the Philippines.
Around 5,000 Filipinos may be needed for the manufacturing sector soon, said Bello.
Bello meanwhile said that the situation in Taiwan is normal and the safety of overseas Filipinos there has been assured by the Taiwanese government amid tensions with neighboring China.
Bello said that the Philippine government is looking after the welfare and well-being of Filipinos there, while noting that Taiwan is prepared to protect not only its citizens but foreigners as well in case of an emergency.
The National Police Agency of Taiwan has also made an assurance that Filipinos there would be secured and protected, he added.
“I met with the Director General together with the head of the Home Civilian Defense of Taiwan and they assured us that they will protect our countrymen,” the MECO official said.
Taiwan, he said, has 89,000 shelters that can accommodate more than the total population of the island. “That is how prepared Taiwan is and they really treasure our OFWs because they, according to them, are the best in their manufacturing industry,” Bello added.
It is estimated that up to 90% of the factories in Taiwan are serviced by Filipino workers.
Roughly 160,000 OFWs are in factories while the rest are highly skilled teachers, farmers, and workers in the hospitality industry.
Cross-strait tensions have worsened between China and Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as a province.