Palace official backs bid to end 'visa on arrival' policy for Chinese tourists

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2019 04:16 PM | Updated as of Aug 01 2019 05:44 PM

Chinese flags are displayed on Roxas Boulevard in downtown Manila on Nov. 19, 2018 for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) - Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has expressed support for the proposal to end the practice of issuing visas to Chinese nationals upon their arrival in the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday initially proposed putting a stop to the practice, saying visiting Chinese nationals should undergo a vetting process before being issued a visa.

"I agree with Secretary Locsin. Kailangan talaga bini-vet, kasi kapag tayo humihingi ng visa, nahihirapan din tayong kumuha ng visa sa mga iba’t ibang bansa eh because they vet – tinitingnan muna nila," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told Palace reporters Thursday.

(It should undergo vetting because when we need a visa, we also experience difficulties in other countries because they also vet.)

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has also raised concerns over the influx of Chinese nationals and called it a "security risk."

Commenting on Esperon's remarks, Panelo explained that the influx of Chinese nationals in the Philippines raises doubts on the legality of their entry.

"He is worried kasi nga masyadong maraming… may influx na magtataka ka bakit parang … bakit nakakapasok sila. So hindi lamang iyong worry ng number, ang worry mo pa ay kung paano sila nakakapasok. Binabantayan ba natin ito o hindi?" Panelo said.

(He is worried because there are too many... There is an influx that makes you think how do they enter? The worry doesn't only cover the number, you also worry about their entry process. Are we guarding this or not?)

Given the government's concern on the issue, Panelo said the Bureau of Immigration should tighten its screening of foreign nationals entering the country.

"[The Bureau of] Immigration will have to do something about the entry of foreign nationals in this country, whether or not they are Chinese," he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Locsin's proposal would test the capacity of the country's consular offices around the world. 

"The ideal scenario is for all foreign nationals to secure the appropriate visas, including work visas, at our consular offices abroad before they actually come to the Philippines," Guevarra said in a statement. 

"The question is: do we have enough consular offices and manpower abroad who can deal with the huge number of foreign applicants and process their visas efficiently?" he asked.

Guevarra said the justice department would be "very happy" to review any previous department order authorizing the Bureau of Immigration to issue visas upon arrival, if the Department of Foreign Affairs "has carefully factored in the number and location" of its consular offices in mainland China and the rest of the world.

The immigration office is an attached agency of the justice department. 

China remains the least trusted country by Filipinos, according to an opinion poll released earlier this month.

The survey was done after a Chinese boat hit and sank a Filipino fishing vessel near the Recto (Reed) Bank in the South China Sea, leaving 22 Filipino fishermen at sea. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese ship. 

China has denied the incident was intentional. 

- with reports from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News