The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) celebrated ties between Taiwan and the Philippines as it held Taiwan’s 104th National Day at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City (Metro Manila) on Thursday.
The 104th anniversary celebration of Taiwan was attended by more than 1,000 guests from the House of Representatives, various government departments, political parties, media, academe and the diplomatic corps as well as Taiwanese officials, expatriates and members of local communities.
In his speech during the event, Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, representative of Taiwan to the Philippines, said the Philippines and Taiwan should work together to gain from each other amid the Philippines’ strong economic growth.
“I believe that the timing is opportune for us to work together to strengthen our relations when the Philippines is poised for high and sustained growth, and in the meantime, some of the Taiwanese businessmen are planning to diversify their investments from mainland China to the Philippines and other Asean countries,” Song Huann-Lin said.
As of end-2014, Taiwan is the seventh largest foreign investor in the Philippines, recording a total of 600 companies led by more than 6,000 Taiwanese businessmen.
At present, companies that have manufacturing hubs in mainland China have been scouting for perfect investment destinations, mostly emerging markets, and relocating to these markets given the slowing Chinese economy.
The Philippines has been the fastest growing economy in the world next to China—growing at an average of 6.2 percent in the past five years—and has been able to weather shocks from global developments, making the country attractive to foreign investors.
Some of the Taiwan investments in the Philippines are Cathay Life Insurance Company’s acquisition of 20-percent stake in Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. for P17.92 billion; Yuanta Bank’s buy-out of Tongyang Savings Bank Inc. (Philippines); Kinpo Electronics Inc.’s P1.4-billion investment for expansion of its Batangas facilities; joint venture of Taiwan’s 7-Eleven with local 7-Eleven licensee Philippine Seven Corp.; and Taiwan-based medical device maker Biotech Corp.’s construction of a new factory in the country, which will be operational soon.
In terms of overseas Filipinos workers in Taiwan, Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, said in the same event that TECO and MECO signed the SHPT-International Direct E-employment System last August to enable Taiwanese employers to hire qualified Filipinos easier and faster.
Perez and Song-Huann Lin both said the number of Filipinos working in Taiwan already reached 120,000 as of end-July.
“Currently, there are 120,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan. They have been enjoying the same minimum wage and national health insurance benefits as Taiwanese nationals,” Song Huann-Lin said.
As for bilateral trade and economic relations, the Taiwan representative said Philippine-Taiwan ties have been “growing significantly.”
“Taiwan is the Philippines’ sixth largest destination of export, ninth largest trading partner and the Philippines is ranked as Taiwan’s 11th largest trading partner. Our bilateral trade volume increased from $6.05 billion in 2009 to $11.6 billion in 2014, almost double in trade volume,” Song Huann-Lin added.
“Taiwan and Philippines have a wide range of cooperative relations, including not only trade and investment, but also agriculture, fisheries, banking, mining, electric power, pharmaceuticals, food processing, electronics, telecommunications, labor, tourism, science, information communications technology and education,” he said.
In terms of tourism, Song Huann-Lin noted that Taiwan supported the Aquino administration’s “Visit Philippines Year 2015” advocacy, which pulled more Taiwanese visitors to the Philippines, increasing by 25.91 percent to 104,233 the number of Taiwanese visitors from January to July this year.
“Taiwan is the seventh largest tourist source for the Philippines. I am hoping that by our joint efforts, we will be able to restore the target numbers of 210,000 visitors per year as before the Balintang Channel Shooting Incident ["Guang Da Xing No. 28” Incident] in May 2013,” he said.
The increased visitor traffic to the Philippines was made possible by the amended 2009 Air Service Agreement in March 2015.
Under the agreement, passenger seats were raised to 20,000 weekly from 5,400 per week for 2015; 25,000 weekly for 2016; and 30,000 weekly for 2017 — all of which cover flights between Taipei and Manila alone, not including Taiwan’s other direct chartered flights to Boracay, Cebu and Palawan and other exotic Philippine destinations.
Aside from the revised Air Service Agreement, MECO also introduced the Electronic Travel Authority system or online visa, and made it available for Taiwanese since last July 1 to simplify travel and short visits to the Philippines.
With the current understanding between Taiwan and the Philippines, Song Huann-Lin said the Philippines will be more attractive to Taiwanese if the country supports the signing of Philippines-Taiwan Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA), as well as Taiwan’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“If the Philippines can kindly support the signing of Philippines-Taiwan (ECA) and the participation of Taiwan in the RCEP and the TPP, I am sure that the Philippines will be a great investment destination and gateway for Taiwanese business sector to do business with Asean region, given the Philippines huge population dividend, impressive domestic market, young and well-educated labor force, abundant natural resources and geographical proximity to Taiwan,” he said.
Aside from Song Huann-Lin and Perez, the anniversary event was graced by former Philippine President Fidel Ramos.