‘Arrivals of Korean tourists remain steady’
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is not expecting any change in the volume of South Korean tourist arrivals as a result of the escalating tension between North and South Korea.

Lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson and acting intelligence chief, said that the arrivals of Korean tourists remain steady and South Koreans continue to make up the biggest percentage of foreign tourists visiting the Philippines.

“We have not received any report that there is a jump or a drop in arrivals. They comprise a big chunk of arrivals that we have,” Mangrobang told The STAR. “Even last year, they had the most number of tourist arrivals.”

BI figures showed that 1,015,144 South Korean tourists visited the country last year, making South Korea the top source of tourists in the Philippines.

South Korea was followed by the United States, with 649,184 Americans that visited the country in 2012.

Mangrobang said that South Korean tourists were being treated as before, with no new policies drawn up in connection with concerns of war between North and South Korea.

“Those policies must emanate from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and of course, the Department of Justice. We assess them based on our standard operating procedure in assessing arriving passengers,” Mangrobang said.

BI examiners have guidelines to determine the purpose of the trip of arriving foreign tourists, whether for business, work, or tour, and to check if the visa they carry is consistent with their declared purpose.

The arrival of South Koreans at the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga also remained normal despite the growing tension in the Korean peninsula.

“There hasn’t been any unusual increase of arrivals of South Koreans at our airport here,” said CIA airport operations manager Richie Nacpil.

Korean Joshua Yoon Soo Cho, adviser to the Korean Association of Angeles City, said that he did not expect his compatriots to leave their homeland out of fear of North Korea.

Nacpil said he checked with the records of Jin Air and Asiana Airlines and found no unusual increase in the number of arriving passengers from Incheon Airport in South Korea.

He said Jin Air flies five times a week between Clark and Incheon, while Asiana flies daily.

“We are in the usual peak season with the flights fully booked, but this is normal as there is still snow in South Korea,” Nacpil said.

Nearby Angeles City is host to hundreds of South Koreans, mostly students enrolled in local schools or engaged in business.

They have formed a virtual Korea town along Friendship Avenue, which glitters at night with neon signs in Korean characters outside hotels, restaurants, and other establishments.

Cho downplayed reports that South Koreans would be bullied into leaving their country because of the northern threat.

“My daughter and grandchildren are there and I called them up yesterday. They assured me all is normal and peaceful there,” he said.

Cho said he has no plans to ask his family to evacuate South Korea, as he downplayed the military capability of the North. He expressed confidence that the North would not carry out its threat, as he cited the combined power of South Korea and its US ally.

He dismissed the fears triggered by North Korea’s war rhetoric as “exaggerated,” as he compared it to overblown reports about the Philippines’ peace and order problems in some areas in Mindanao.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that no Filipino in South Korea has signified intention to leave because of the tension in the peninsula.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez reiterated that there is no imminent threat.

There are around 40,000 Filipinos in South Korea.

He said, “The general situation now in Seoul, in South Korea as a whole, is normal, business as usual and calm.”

Hernandez added that the contingency plan is based on solid intelligence and assessment of the situation by the Philippine embassy in Seoul in coordination with the UN command, South Korean authorities, and the US forces.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s scheduled trip to South Korea was postponed following consultation with international partners on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) situation that saw no current imminent threat.

Former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri called on President Aquino to use its status in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and double its diplomatic approach in appealing to North and South Korea to stop the war preparations.

Zubiri, a senate aspirant who started his campaign in Zamboanga City last Monday, said a united call from the Filipinos can help in averting any holocaust following threats from North Korea to launch a nuclear missile.

Zubiri said the Philippines should exert all efforts through diplomatic fronts with the United Nations to force both sides to put a stop to their war rhetoric. – With Ding Cervantes, Roel Pareño

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