President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered government agencies on Thursday to act upon the extension of e-visas for Chinese, Indian, South Korean, and Japanese nationals to capture the tourism markets from these countries.
The President issued the directive during the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Tourism Sector group meeting in Malacañang.
The PSAC advises the President on the government’s economic objectives, particularly in the country’s key sectors.
To capture the tourism markets of China and India, PSAC has recommended the inclusion of Indian nationals under the visa-upon-arrival program and the extension of e-visa, which is currently available only for Taiwanese citizens and to Chinese, Indian, South Korean, and Japanese nationals.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo said during the meeting that on the issue of e-visa, the DFA is collaborating with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on the development of the technical plans.
On the visa-upon-arrival, Manalo said the DFA has a program, which applies to certain Chinese nationals, other citizens such as Americans, Japanese, Australian, Canadians, and Europeans could have a 14-day visa upon arrival.
DICT Secretary Ivan Uy said his department is still studying various connectivity matters that need to be threshed out with respect to the other jurisdictions that will avail of the Philippine e-visa platform.
It will take at least a semester to develop the capability because there is so much anti-fraud element that needs to be consolidated with the platform, and the various countries that will be connecting with the system and with the transactions, Uy said.
The President made a recommendation for the DICT to take India’s offer for the use of its app regarding visas.
Aside from rolling out of the e-visa by 2023, and prioritizing China and India, the PSAC recommended the implementation of a Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists by 2024; the removal of One Health Pass (OHP) or requirement of one form only for health, immigration, and customs; revocation of outdated advisories and loud-speaker announcements at airports; and automatic inclusion of travel tax in all airline tickets.
Among the PSAC’s short-term strategic recommendations are the improvement of airport infrastructure and operations, promotion of tourism investments and managing national brand or image.
From February to December 2022, the country welcomed 2.65 million visitors (2.02 million foreign tourists and 628,445 Filipinos overseas).
This figure is higher than the 2021 tourist arrivals of 163,879 but still significantly lower than the pre-pandemic level of 8.26 million.
For 2023, the Department of Tourism (DOT) targets 4.8 million tourist arrivals, which could generate P2.58 trillion in revenue.