February 24, 2024

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The Philippines to Strengthen Systems to Expand E-Visas

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has authorised the expansion of online visa applications for Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, and Indian visitors. The act on e-visa renewal aims to attract those countries’ tourism markets.

According to Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil, Marcos delivered the command during a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council’s (PSAC) Tourism Sector members at Malacaan Palace in Manila.

During the discussion at Malacaan Palace, PSAC asked Marcos to include Indian nationals in the visa-on-arrival programme and the e-visa request. The suggestion was made to help the government achieve its economic goals, particularly in the country’s critical sectors. As a result, only Taiwanese, Chinese, Indian, South Korean, and Japanese citizens are eligible for VoA and e-visa.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy indicated that several connectivity issues with the other jurisdictions that will use the Philippine e-visa platform must be worked out.

“It will take at least a semester to establish the capability because there is so much anti-fraud element that has to be merged with the platform and the many countries that will be connected with the infrastructure and the transactions,” Garafil added, referring to Uy’s comments.

Enrique Manalo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who was present at the conference, revealed that his office is already engaging with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to provide the necessary preparations for the e-visa.

Meanwhile, Manalo added that the DFA has a programme for some Chinese nationals who qualify for visa-on-arrival. Other foreign nationals, such as Americans, Japanese, Australians, Canadians, and Europeans, may be granted a 14-day visa upon arrival, according to Garafil.

According to figures from the Presidential Communications Office, the Philippines hosted around 2.65 million visitors from February to December 2022, including 2.02 million foreign tourists and 628,445 Filipinos living abroad (PCO).

According to Garafil, the latest figure is higher than the 163,879 visitor arrivals projected for 2021 but fewer than the 8.26 million pre-pandemic average. The Department of Tourism (DOT) anticipates 4.8 million visitor arrivals in 2023, generating PHP2.58 trillion in income.

Marcos urged that the DICT embrace India’s offer to use its visa application system. The PSAC also issued “short-term” strategic recommendations, such as improving airport infrastructure and operations, promoting tourism investments, and administering the national brand or image.

She also noted that the PSAC had proposed a Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Programme for international tourists by 2024, as well as the elimination of the One Health Pass (OHP) or the obligation of only one form for health, immigration, and customs. The group also advocated for the “automatic” inclusion of travel tax in all airline tickets and the removal of outmoded airport advisories and loudspeaker announcements.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) began an online visa waiver project in December to improve legal services for tourists. The programme is aimed at short-term visitors to the country. They can extend their stay for another 30 days by submitting an online application.

In January, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) plans to modernise and automate immigration-related transactions at their international airports. To improve passenger service, the bureau seeks to modernise and automate all immigration-related processes, including tourist visa extensions, online visa waiver applications, and e-payments.

Previously, the agency implemented electronic transactions and payments for immigration applications, the eTravel system and a collaborative effort of multiple border management organisations. The BI director emphasised the importance of his administration’s priorities.

The urgencies include anti-corruption, digital transformation, national security, rightsizing, and employee empowerment. He also sees a need to expand immigration’s role in national security, follow the president’s lead in increasing the bureau’s personnel complement, and promote employee welfare.

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