MANILA (UPDATED) – Filipinos may travel visa-free to Japan soon, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manolo Lopez said Tuesday.
"It seems ili-lift nila," Lopez told radio dzMM. "Nakikita nila na ang tourism ay nakakatulong sa ekonomiya nila dito."
He said Japanese officials want to take advantage of the strong economy of Southeast Asian countries.
"I think with the stronger economy in Southeast Asia, talagang ang gumagatos dito among the tourists are Southeast Asians,” Lopez said.
The Japanese government and the ruling coalition are making arrangements to waive visas for tourists from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam as one of the initiatives in a revised action plan due out in June to make Japan a tourism-oriented country, Kyodo News reported, quoting government sources.
The initiative is aimed at drawing more tourists from Southeast Asia.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also looking to tourism as a pillar of its strategy to spur the country's economic growth.
With a visa waiver, a large increase in the number of visitors to Japan can be expected from the three Southeast Asian nations, given growing demand in such countries for overseas trips reflecting their economic growth, observers say.
The rates at which overstay occurred among the short-term visitors from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam between January and November last year were relatively low at between 0.09 percent and 0.34 percent.
Japan has waived visas for short-term visitors from South Korea, Taiwan and 64 other countries and regions, if their purposes of visit are sightseeing or visiting their relatives.
South Korea, which rivals Japan as one of the main tourist destinations in Northeast Asia, has also eased its visa policy to attract a greater number of visitors.
Sightseeing, food trips
Asked what tourists should look forward to in Japan, Lopez said eating there is a must.
"Ang pagkain, tayong mga Pilipino, gusto ang Japanese food. Malinis dito ang mga restaurants. Kahit mura na restaurants, very clean and very safe," he said.
According to Lopez, tourists come to Japan more for sightseeing and eating, as the cost of living is quite high.
Lopez also said that before venturing for Japan, tourists should search the internet first and decide where to go within their budget.
"Usually when you go to the internet, makikita mo more or less kung magkano hotels, restaurants, how to go around Japan by taking the subway. Going around the subway is very simple, you just have to know where you want to go," Lopez said. - with a report from Kyodo News
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