Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has made the Philippines a major partner of Taiwan under the recently launched New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s representative to the Philippines Gary Song-Huann Lin said.
Under the New Southbound Policy, the Philippines tops Taiwan’s expansion agenda that covers a multifaceted cooperation and partnership among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“Taiwan will speed up and broaden its cooperation with the Philippines not only in trade and investment, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, small and medium enterprises, information and communication technology, green technology, climate change, but also in education and culture as well as the change of mindset of the people to appreciate the facts that, as the closest neighbor, we are actually living in a regional community,” Lin said in a speech during the cultural performance of Taiwan youth ambassadors at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
The new policy partly aims to closer economic ties with Asean in a bid to diversify Taiwan’s foreign policy.
One of the areas that the Taiwanese government has prioritized is tourism, outlining a three-pronged effort to remove tourism visa barriers for Southeast Asian states, including extending visa-free privileges to more countries; expanding a Tourism Bureau program that simplifies visas for Southeast Asian tourist groups and extending online visa approvals.
Lin said many Taiwanese businessmen are interested in investing in the Philippines, specifically in infrastructure, energy, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
The envoy noted that Taiwan is also supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts to improve the peace and order situation by eradicating the scourge of illicit drugs and the menace of terrorism.
The President’s endeavor, Lin said, will further attract investors.
“I think many foreign investors would like to come because you have booming technology, your economic growth [is]one of the highest in Asian region,” he told reporters in an interview.
“So if you can really have better infrastructure and then peace and stability, so I believe [that would be]conducive [to]your economic development,” he added.
Lin said Duterte had already expressed his interest ties with Taiwan, including partnership on infrastructure projects, as well as in combating transnational crimes, illegal drugs and human rights abuses.
“Your President Duterte visited Taiwan in the past. He witnessed Taiwan’s very advanced infrastructure and he fully understands the importance of our bilateral relations,” the ambassador said.
Lin said Taiwan values its relationship with the Philippines notwithstanding the dispute over Itu Aba in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Itu Aba is just one of the different positions [we have], but we always consider the Philippines as a friendly country. Likewise, Taiwan never makes trouble in the South China Sea as you can see,” he said.