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Return tickets now required for visiting Chinese

/ 04:55 AM January 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese tourists will now be required to present return tickets and hotel reservations for every place they plan to visit in the Philippines before they are issued tourist “visas upon arrival.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) also announced that the visas issued upon arrival to Chinese visitors would no longer be extended beyond the maximum 30 day stays.

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In addition, the special visa, given only to Chinese nationals, can no longer be converted to work or resident visa.

These new rules contained in a DOJ circular will take effect immediately upon publication expected this week, according to Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete.

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He said the restrictions to the visa-upon-arrival privilege would ensure that Chinese tourists would not overstay.

“We want to make sure that the visa-upon-arrival facility will not be abused,”Perete said on Sunday.

‘Restrictive’

“We just put in more restrictions because of the complaints that many are using that facility to obtain employment in the Philippines,”he added.

In 2017, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II authorized the scheme to issue visas to Chinese visitors upon arrival at the airport without any other requirements.

Currently, the visa-upon-arrival scheme allows Chinese to stay for 30 days. The visa holder can also apply for an extension of up to six months and conversion to another form of visa for employment.

The new DOJ rules, however, prohibit the conversion of the visa upon arrival into a work visa or a resident visa.

“The new amendment makes it restrictive in the sense that if you’re coming in as a tourist, to be able to get a visa upon arrival you’re now required to provide the tickets to go out of the Philippines and to make sure no one will overstay,” Perete said.

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Accredited tour operator

“If they’re coming in as tourists, they must have accommodations for every stop in their itinerary. The tour operator must of course be accredited and must provide all the details where they will be staying,”he added.

Late last year, the government reviewed the visa-upon-arrival policy after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed alarm over the influx of hundreds of thousands of Chinese, many of whom are believed working illegally in Chinese-run online gambling offices called Philippine offshore gaming operators.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also opposed the visa-upon-arrival facility, insisting that all visas should be issued by Philippine consular offices to properly vet foreign visitors.

In the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China, the number of Chinese tourists who visit the Philippines has grown remarkably since 2016, data from the Department of Tourism showed.

In 2017, some 968,447 tourists from China arrived in the country, up by 43 percent from the previous year. In 2018, Chinese visitors breached the 1-million mark, reaching 1.26 million, or 17.55 percent of the total number of tourist arrivals.

China has become the country’s top tourist market after South Korea.

The surge in the number of Chinese workers in the country, however, has led to crime like kidnap-for-ransom and prostitution catering to these workers.—With a report from Kathleen de Villa, Inquirer Research INQ

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