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Philippines mulls opening visa office at Taoyuan airport

2012/10/03 22:19:20

Manila, Oct. 3 (CNA) The Philippines is considering setting up a visa office at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in the wake of Taiwan's inclusion in the United States' visa waiver program, said an official from the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Wednesday.

"We are studying the possibility of opening up an office in the airport in Taiwan for receiving visas before departure," said Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the 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 already been taken to ease visa application procedures for Taiwanese nationals.

Since August this year, the Philippines began issuing multiple entry visas with a validity of up to one year to Taiwanese nationals, up from a previous validity of between 3-6 months, he said.

Moreover, in the past, a visa would be issued after 24 hours, he said.

Taiwanese nationals can now apply for a visa in the morning and expect to receive it after lunch, he noted.

He added that the Philippines carefully scrutinizes visa issues related to Taiwanese nationals "because of incidents of Taiwanese nationals being involved in cyber crimes."

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

Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, told CNA on the sidelines of the third Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Maritime Forum in Manila 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 no definite decisions have been made yet.

Taiwanese people 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, according to data compiled by the MECO.

(By Emerson T. Lin and Ann Chen)
ENDITEM/npw