By Arjay L. Balinbin
A PROPOSAL to subject Chinese nationals to regular Philippine visa applications may lead to lower tourist arrivals and cut revenue from their travel spending here, according to the former executive vice-president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines.
“Definitely, there will be less interest in the Philippines on the part of the Chinese,” Aileen C. Clemente, who is also president of Rajah Travel Corp., said by telephone on Friday. “Travel companies whose main market is China will be greatly affected.”
Chinese tourists in the Philippines don’t need to apply for a visa before coming here and are instead issued visas upon arrival. But Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin earlier said this must change to ensure national security.
“We need to put an end to visas upon arrival; all visas should be issued by consular offices after vetting,” he said on Twitter. “We must take extra care in outsourcing any part of the visa application process, picking only the most reputable worldwide.”
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is worried over the influx of Chinese nationals working in the Philippines, many of them illegally.
A total of 3.49 million tourists visited the Philippines in the five months to May, 9.8% higher than a year earlier, according to the Tourism department.
Korea was the country’s top source market with 788,530 arrivals, growing by 11.8%. China followed closely with 733,769 arrivals for a 30.96 percent growth.
Mr. Locsin might be serious with his proposal but it would still be President Rodrigo R. Duterte who will decide, Marlon M. Villarin, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said in a mobile phone message.
“The cost might be detrimental to us in terms of tourism revenue but it’s worth the loss for the sake of national security,” he added.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) is open to review the policy with the Foreign Affairs department and Bureau of Immigration, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a mobile phone message.
“We agree that prime importance should be placed on the security and safety of our guests and locals,” she said. “The grant of visas is to ensure entry of desirable visitors.”
She declined to comment on the effect of the change in the visa application process on tourist arrivals in the Philippines and her agency’s target of 8.2 million arrivals this year.
“Visa upon arrival will encourage more Chinese tourists to come here and motivate them to spend more money in the country,” John Paolo R. Rivera, associate director of the Asian Institute of Management’s Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism, said in a mobile phone message. The only drawback to it is foregone revenue from the regular visa application process, he added.