THE Justice Department said the government will not scrap the visa-upon-arrival (VUA) for Chinese tourist but will limit its validity to 30 days without extension.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said this was contained in an amendment to the VUA the DOJ will publish and will become effective 15 days from the date of publication.
“The amendment would not allow for any extension for the visa upon arrival, maximum of 30 days. But if within the 30-day period, for example, 15 days lang ‘yung event mo dito,
then when you leave your visa is already expired,” Perete explained.
“And then, if they’re coming in as tourists, they must have booked accommodations in every stop of their itinerary. The tour operator must be of course accredited and must prove all the details where they will be staying as well as the proof of accommodations,” he added.
Perete said this move will enable authorities to monitor the entry and length of stay of Chinese tourists in the country.
“The new amendment makes it restrictive in the sense that if you’re coming in as a tourist, you’re now required, for you to be able to get a VUA, to provide your tickets to go out of the Philippines, to make sure that you will not overstay here,” he said.
It will be recalled that when former DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III granted VUA to Chinese tourists, athletes and businessmen, their visas were good for three months stay in the country but can be extended to another three months.
It allowed the BI to issue visas to Chinese at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and in eight other international airports (Clark, Mactan, and Kalibo) and seaports (Manila, Puerto Princesa, Subic, Laoag, and Caticlan).
Perete added the single-entry type visa cannot be converted to work or resident visa.
“You cannot convert the visa into a work visa for example or into a resident’s visa,” Perete said.
The original recommendation by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was to scrap the VUA altogether.
Asked why it only covers Chinese, Perete said other nationalities are also up for consideration for the VUA program since it was meant to encourage more tourists to visit the country.
“Right now, kasi yun (Chinese) ang covered but we are also studying the possibility of expanding the coverage to other nationals coming in for short stays, because the purpose of the VUA is to encourage tourism,” Perete said.
“Apart from the concern to promote tourism, of course there are security considerations.
There are also considerations relating to the capacity of the Bureau of Immigration to process applications for visa upon arrival. So if we increase the coverage, we might have to address certain logistical problems later on,” he added.
He said the DOJ decided to amend the VUA program because of complaints that many Chinese are using the visa to obtain employment in the country, particularly in the Philippine Gaming Offshore Operations or POGO industry.
A total of 1,375,508 Chinese arrived in the Philippines in 2018, forming a large part of the 4.5 million Chinese who entered the country from 2013 to 2018.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had said that Beijing respects the laws and regulations of the Philippines regarding employment of foreign nationals and acknowledged that its nationals “should not stay or work illegally in foreign countries including the Philippines.”