Arts & Culture

More tourists and excellent dimsum from Taiwan to Manila



Taiwan Representative Gary Song-Huann Lin
Taiwan Representative Gary Song-Huann Lin

AT the reunion of Filipinos who have been to Taiwan upon the invitation of Taiwan government last week, Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila, announced a number of good things that would strengthen relations between the Philippines and the Republic of China.

Filipinos who love Chinese food would be interested to know that  the famous Taiwanese dimsum restaurant, Din Tai Fung, will soon be in Manila.

The other welcome announcement was the increase of flights between Taiwan and the Philippines.

These developments show that despite institutional diplomacy limitations, relations between the Philippines and Taiwan continues to improve.

The Philippines adopts the One-China policy which recognizes the People’s Republic of China which has its capital in Beijing, as the representative of the Chinese people. PROC considers Taiwan its province.

Taiwan has adopted a “no unification, no independence and no use of force” policy with mainland China which has resulted in a vigorous economic relations between them.

The Philippines maintains a people-to-people relations with Taiwan (represented by TECO in Manila and the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei) which has always been robust except for a strain in 2013 caused by the shooting of a Taiwanese fishermen by the Philippine Coast Guard in Balintang channel where the economic Exclusive Zones of both The Philippines and Taiwan overlap. The incident has been resolved.

What is still missing is a fisheries agreement that would formalize how to resolve fishing disputes, including procedures on the detention and release of any fishing vessels or fishermen.

Lin is enthusiastic about tourism between Taiwan and the Philippines. He said,“The first step to encourage tourism between our two countries is to increase more flights to and from Taiwan and the Philippines. To achieve this goal, our two countries have already held air service talks recently to liberalize and increase the two-way traffic of the flights.”

He said aside from increase in the number of flights between Manila and Taipei, there will soon be flights from Taipei direct to Boracay and Taipei to Palawan.

There are now direct flights from Taipei to Cebu.

Lin further announced that the Philippine government will liberalize the visa requirements for the Taiwanese visitors by launching the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system as from July 1, 2015.

“Thus, including the Philippines, there will be 142 countries and regions, including the E.U., U.S.A. and Australia which have given the visa-free treatment and ETA to the ROC (Taiwan) nationals. I believe that the Philippine government’s new approach will certainly facilitate the two way traveling so as to boost the tourism industries in our two countries,” he said.

Lin said Taiwan is interested to offer the expertise of its nationals in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He noted that the business structure of Taiwan and the Philippines is quite similar. “Taiwan’s companies are not only energetic, but also flexible. They have strengths to adapt to the fast-changing international economic market. This is why the Taiwanese economy is doing very well. I believe that Taiwan’s experience and economic development model can be borrowed by the Philippines. If we work together, we can complement each other. That also may create many jobs for the young people in the Philippines,” he said.

Making xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung Pacific Sogo, Taipei.Photo by Fred Hsu.
Making xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung Pacific Sogo, Taipei.Photo by Fred Hsu.

Lin said the owners Din Tai Fung is finalizing talks with Filipino partners.

Din Tai Fung is known for its xiaolongbao (soup dumplings).Outside Taiwan, Din Tai Fung also has branches in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and Thailand. In 1993, it was named by New York Times as one of the he top ten restaurants in the world.

There are, of course, more to relations between the Philippines and Taiwan than dimsum and tourists.

Lin said, “My government has spent tireless efforts in promoting digital education exemplified in the establishment of the APEC Digital Opportunity Centers (ADOCs).”

He said Taiwan has helped the Philippines set up 17 ADOC Centers, allowing more than 180,000 Filipinos to receive training. Among them, 47.77 percent are female.

He said it Taiwan’s way of “assisting young Filipino generation to catch up with the digital era.”

But Lin noted that there are “still some blind spots in which we do not fully understand each other’s strengths, culture, history and the characteristics of the people” despite the fact that there are more than 110,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan and Taiwanese corporations are in various fields in the Philippines – from fishery, banking, trade, mining, electric power, wind energy, telecommunications.

He said there is an urgent need to have a bridge upon which we can have more exchanges, more mutual understanding, more educational and cultural exchanges and more investments.

He said during his stint here, “I intend to act as that bridge builder.” He encouraged the “Taiwan alumni” to join him in that mission.