By Macon Araneta

Filipinos  and nationals from three other countries can continue to enjoy traveling to Taiwan without visa for one year starting August 1, 2020 until July 31, 2021.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MOFA)made the decision in a bid to promote its New Southbound Policy which allows visa-free entry to foreign nationals from the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei and Russia..

In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office  (TECO)in the Philippines stressed that the extension is intended to strengthen Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy.

The policy is an initiative to enhance ties and exchanges with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Australasia.

“The agencies participating in the meeting, having evaluated the status and outcomes of the measures so far, jointly made the following decisions: From August 1, 2020, trial visa-free entry for nationals from Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Russia will be extended for one year until July 31, 2021,” TECO said.

But TECO clarified that since the MOFA has announced entry regulations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, such extensions do not take precedence over current border control rules geared at avoiding local coronavirus transmissions in Taiwan.

According to TECO, the relaxation of the rules may depend on the assessment of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), based on the development of the pandemic worldwide.

“In line with epidemic prevention measures taken by the CECC, MOFA announced entry regulations for foreign nationals during the epidemic,” TECO said.

“The aforementioned adjustments to visa measures for nationals from New Southbound Policy partner countries and Russia are based on previously existing policies and do not take precedence over temporary border control measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

Last February, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office warned that Taipei may issue sanctions on Manila, including the removal of the visa-free entry privilege, after Taiwan was wrongly included in the country’s ban of inbound flights from China.