A Malacañang source told The STAR that government agencies that deal with the activities of foreigners in the country have agreed to tighten the VUA privilege to Chinese tourists instead of scrapping it.
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Visa-on-arrival policy stays, but rules to be tightened
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Despite concerns over the increasing number of Chinese nationals in the Philippines, the government does not see any reason to scrap the visa-upon-arrival (VUA) privilege granted to them, but eyes to tighten the process of its issuance instead.

A Malacañang source told The STAR that government agencies that deal with the activities of foreigners in the country have agreed to tighten the VUA privilege to Chinese tourists instead of scrapping it.

The source said the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Bureau of Immigration (BI), is crafting guidelines for tightening the process of VUA issuance.

“We’ve decided to tighten the process instead of scrapping it so that the people will feel safe (amid the influx of Chinese visitors),” the source said.

Calls for the scrapping of the VUA privilege have gained ground in the wake of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s raising concerns over security issues spawned by the rising number of Chinese nationals in the Philippines.

Reacting to Esperon’s statement, Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted that the visas granted to Chinese travelers should undergo vetting process by consular offices.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said they are awaiting further instructions from the DOJ. She said BI “will readily implement should there be any changes in procedures.”

The VUA privilege for Chinese started in 2017 after then Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo asked the DOJ – then headed by Vitaliano Aguirre II – to accord Chinese nationals special privilege.

In a related development, tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said VUA is not a big factor in the influx of Chinese nationals in the Philippines.

Puyat said that only 91,261 Chinese tourists were granted VUA privilege in 2018, or only nine percent of the total 1,023,824 Chinese who received their visas from DFA consular offices in China.

She also said that only 55,739 Chinese tourists have availed of VUA privilege from January to July 2019.

Puyat explained that the process of VUA issuance does not begin in the Philippines.

She said VUA is only granted to Chinese tourists who passed the screening process of DOT-accredited tour operators in China and to the vetting process of the BI, in a process that usually lasted for 10 days.

“Pupunta sila sa accredited tour operators tapos titignan ng BI yung records nila, ibabalik ng immigration ang kanilang documents kung may problemang nakita at hindi mabibigyan ng VUA (They go to accredited tour operators and the BI will check their records. The immigration will return their documents if a problem is spotted, and they’ll not be issued VUA),” Puyat said.

BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE VISA-UPON-ARRIVAL
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