Taiwan is the closest neighbour of the Philippines to the north. The two countries are near enough to each other that Filipinos in the northernmost Philippine province of Batanes can get radio broadcasts anytime of the day from the island country.
Relations between the two countries are deep, and their people-to-people friendship is strong.
These ties are going to be showcased in this year’s TaiwanFest, the biggest English and Mandarin bilingual festival in Canada organized by the Asian Canadian Special Events Association (ACSEA).
With the theme ‘Fete with the Philippines’, TaiwanFest happens over six days in August and September in Toronto and Vancouver.
In Toronto, TaiwanFest will be held at the Harbour Front Centre (235 Queens Quay W) on August 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; August 25, 12 noon to 10 p.m.; and August 26, 12 noon to 6 p.m.
In Vancouver, TaiwanFest will have multiple venues: Granville Street (from West Pender Street to Robson Street, Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza, and The Annex at Orpheum. The Vancouver festival runs September 1, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; September 2, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and September 3, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
TaiwanFest is a complete package, featuring concerts and other live entertainment, lectures, films, culinary shows, arts exhibits, family-oriented activities, and a giant street party with food and market stalls.
‘Fete with the Philippines’ is the latest iteration of TaiwanFest’s Dialogues with Asia series, which aims to present a unique Asian culture each year in a dialogue that produces a festival experience.
According to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines, trade between the two countries increased by (US)$1.1 billion last year, totaling $11.97 billion in 2017.
Tourism is a key feature in the people-to-people relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines.
In 2017, visitor arrivals from the Philippines reached 291,000, an increase of 118,525 from 2016’s figure of 172,457. Meanwhile, according to TECO, visitor arrivals from Taiwan to the Philippines reached 236,000, representing an increase of 39,383 from 196,617 in 2016.
On July 12 this year, Taiwan announced that it is extending the visa-free privilege for Filipinos visiting Taiwan until July 31, 2019, and will review the policy for possible further extension.
“This visa-free privilege is a reflection of Taiwan's goodwill and friendship towards all Filipinos under the 'New Southbound Policy,' which aims to build stronger bilateral relations and closer people-to-people connectivity between Taiwan and the Philippines,” TECO stated in its announcement.
Taiwan earlier implemented this visa-free policy on a trial basis from November 1, 2017, to July 31, 2018.
For its part, the Philippines has positioned itself as the gateway of Taiwan for its New Southbound Policy.
The policy was started in 2016 by President Tsai Ing-wen to expand Taiwan’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The New Southbound Policy seeks to strengthen Taiwan’s relationships with the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes the Philippines; and six states in South Asia, namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan; and Australia and New Zealand.
In addition to trade and tourism, Taiwan is also hosting more than 150,000 Filipino workers.
According to TECO in the Philippines, there are also approximately 8,000 Filipinos who are married to Taiwanese, many of them fell in love at work.