By HANA BORDEY, GMA Integrated News
Senator Nancy Binay on Tuesday told the Department of Tourism (DOT) to review its pilot rollout of the new e-visa system in China considering the “heated” situation between the Philippines and the Asian powerhouse.
During the Senate finance committee hearing on DOT’s P2.99 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2024, Binay asked Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco why it chose China for the pilot implementation of the new system.
According to Frasco, the inter-agency discussion on the e-visa system took into consideration the global tourism data which established that China is the biggest supplier of outbound travel in 2019 with over 160 million Chinese travelling around the globe.
The DOT chief said studies from the United Nations World Tourism Organization also showed that the current 53 percent recovery rate of the ASEAN can be improved by tapping the Chinese market.
This was further supported by data from World Travel and Tourism Council which showed that China accounts 15 percent of global spending on tourism.
“The reason why China has been included in the sphere of priorities is because precisely of this global studies that would indicate that the tourism dollars that can be brought in by the Chinese market globally are of such a staggering amount that it can assist in the recovery of our economies including that of the Philippines,” Frasco said.
“The focus of the DOT in trying to tap the Chinese market, apart from the global data that I have already cited which urges tourism countries to focus on Chinese market is also derived from the implementing program on the memorandum of cooperation in tourism which was signed in January of this year during the successful state visit of the president to China at which, I personally signed the agreement,” she added.
The Tourism chief also said that the Philippines is not only focusing on China but also on travelers from South Korea, United States, Japan, and Canada, among others.
But with the current developments between China and the Philippines, Binay can’t help but ask if it is prudent for the Philippines to prioritize the Chinese market.
She mentioned that there were also Chinese visitors who were granted tourist visas but overstayed and some were even involved in illegal activities.
Responding to this, Frasco reiterated that they are not only focusing on China and they are eyeing the expansion of the e-visa system implementation to India.
“China is not the only market that the DOT wishes to focus on and we’re very eager to expand as well to India,” she said.
At this point, Binay said the DOT should consider prioritizing other countries instead of China.
“Siguro, secretary, baka unahin na lang muna natin siguro ang India in light of our current situation. Kasi malaki din naman ‘yung market ng India. Baka mas maganda maging pilot muna ‘yung India considering that we have not gotten that market,” she said.
“Just a review, maybe coordinate with NICA and NSC kasi I will assume that when you were doing the study baka hindi pa ganon kaiinit yung sitwasyon baka we need to get feedback from our NSC or NICA if they really do have the capability to check itong mga i-issue-han natin ng e-visa,” she added.
Binay also questioned the pilot implementation of the e-visa system after Tourism Assistant Secretary Verna Buensuceso disclosed that visa applicants should still need to go to the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai to fill up the forms in the computers.
“Pero kung ganon din, bakit naman siya pupunta to do it online edi isa-submit din nya na lang sa consulate. Siya rin pala yung maga-upload,” Binay said
The DOT official explained that since it was a pilot run, they wanted to ensure that the system is performing.
“Parang mali. Parang naging burden pa sa kanila yung pag-apply kasi kung ako yung turista, pupunta na lang ako don tapos isa-submit ko na lang kaysa ako pa yung maga-upload,” she said.
Buensuceso said the end goal of the system is for tourists applying for visa to do the application in their homes and the payment of the fees will be done through online transactions.
Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed that it is eyeing to expand the implementation of the e-visa system to India after its pilot test in China.
In August, Manalo announced that the DFA has launched the e-visa system which allows foreign tourists to apply for visitor’s visas online.
According to the DFA, the convenience from using the e-visa system will encourage more tourists to visit the Philippines.
Manalo earlier said that the soft launch of the e-visa system would be conducted in Shanghai.—LDF, GMA Integrated