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Taiwan issues travel alert for Philippines, halts exchanges

2013/05/15 22:10:38

The Bureau of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a red travel alert for the Philippines on its website at 6:09 p.m. Wednesday.

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) The Cabinet issued a red travel alert for the Philippines on Wednesday, advising Taiwanese nationals to avoid travel to the neighboring county, in a slew of sanctions imposed against the Philippines following the May 9 fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman.

The Cabinet issued the highest-level travel warning in Taiwan's four-tier advisory system, in its second wave of sanctions against the Philippines, saying that country's government had failed to show "sufficient sincerity" in its handling of the shooting incident.

The Tourism Bureau advised travel agents to fully refund travelers who are forced to cancel trips to the Philippines because of the travel alert.

The bureau said it has no immediate estimate of the number Taiwanese travelers likely to be affected, but added that the Philippines is not a popular destination for Taiwanese visitors.

Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Education announced that Philippine nationals will be excluded from the Taiwan Scholarship and the Huayu (Chinese language) Enrichment Scholarship programs.

Deputy Education Minister Huang Pi-twan said, however, that local universities will not be asked to halt exchanges with their Philippine counterparts but rather, the ministry will leave that to "the schools' own judgment."

According to the education ministry, there are currently 338 Philippine students in Taiwan, 21 of whom are on scholarships offered by the Taiwan government.

The Council of Agriculture (COA) also said it will halt bilateral exchanges with the Philippines in the agricultural and fishery sectors, including technical missions to the Philippines.

Agricultural trade, however, will not be suspended, the COA said.

Taiwan's agricultural exports to the Philippines totaled US$107 million in 2012, while agricultural imports from the Philippines amounted to US$66.69 million, according to the COA.

Mou Chung-yuan, deputy head of the National Science Council, said the council will also suspend all interaction with the Philippines, including a biennial technology cooperation meeting, academic forums and a scholarship program that helps foster technical talent in the Philippines.

Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, meanwhile, said her ministry does not have any current exchange activities with the Philippines and that private sector cultural exchanges should be decided by the sector, rather than the ministry.

On the local government level, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said she supports the central government's decision to level sanctions against the Philippines. Chen said Philippines representatives are not welcome to attend the Asia Pacific Cities Summit in the southern Taiwan city in September, although invitations were sent to them last month.

The city government will also suspend exchanges with the central Philippine city of Cebu, which has sister ties with Kaohsiung, Chen said.

The Kaohsiung City government has given hundreds of used buses and fire engines to Cebu over the years, she said.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu said the Philippines' handling of the incident failed to meet the expectations of the people of Taiwan and that his government has severed sister ties with Makati, which is part of Metro Manila, with effect from early Wednesday.

(By Yang Su-min, Lin Shen-shu, Chen Chih-chung, Sabine Cheng, Wang
Shu-fen, Chen Ching-ping and Jamie Wang)
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