No plans to adjust visa-free treatment for Filipinos: MOFA

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As part of its New Southbound policy, Taiwan has since 2016 allowed travelers from the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei 14-day visa-free privileges, while nationals from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are given various conditional visa-free treatment. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan has no plans to adjust its visa-free treatment for Philippine nationals at present, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday, following reports that several Filipino workers disguised as tourists were caught trying to slip into the United Arab Emirates via Taipei.

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) made the remark at a press conference Tuesday, noting that the final destination of the Filipino nationals in the case was not Taiwan.

However, Ou said, her ministry is conducting an ongoing review of the effects of visa-free treatment for the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar, based on the principal of reciprocity, as well as the numbers and types of offenses committed by citizens from these countries in Taiwan.

As part of its New Southbound policy, Taiwan has since 2016 allowed travelers from the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei 14-day visa-free privileges, while nationals from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are given various conditional visa-free treatment.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism banned individual travel by Chinese nationals to Taiwan from Aug. 1, citing “current cross-Taiwan Strait relations.”

In an effort to fill the expected drop in tourist arrivals, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said Aug. 7 that the government is studying measures to boost tourism, including relaxing the rules for visa-free entry via a third country.

However, incidents in which foreign nationals have taken advantage of the visa-free treatment for illegal purposes have occurred, sparking concern that Taiwan’s peace and order could be affected or that it could become a transit point for human trafficking.

On Aug. 7, immigration personnel in the Philippines intercepted 16 Filipinos at the Manila International Airport posing as tourists who were heading overseas to work as undocumented workers. Among them, 12 were attempting to slip into the United Arab Emirates via Taipei.

In December 2018, as many as 152 Vietnamese who entered Taiwan as part of tour groups left their groups, many of whom remain at large.

When asked if the government will relax its visa policies for Indonesia and Vietnam, Ou said the issue involves concerns over tourism, border control and national security, and is currently under assessment by the Executive Yuan.

According to data from the National Immigration Agency, a total of 8,511 migrant workers were unaccounted for during the first six months of the year, mostly Vietnamese and Indonesians.

By Emerson Lim