MANILA, Philippines - Tourists from 166 countries can now avail of the expanded 30-day free visa upon arrival and six months for retirees as part of the government efforts to prove "It is more fun in the Philippines".
Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez said this in a speech before the General Membership Meeting of the Makati Business Club that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration have issued circular to extend the free visa upon arrival to 166 countries to 30 days from 21 days and for retirees to enjoy 6 month free visa upon arrival.
"This is to show that the Philippines is more fun no matter what age you are," Jimenez said.
Jimenez said as he stressed that the "national government spearheads the review of policy bottlenecks that run counter to tourism promotion efforts."
The visa requirement restriction is just among the measures being implemented by the DOT to ease the entry of tourists into the country.
Another move is the abolition of the Common Carriers Tax and the Customs and Immigration Quarantine.
"We are also working on the FAA downgrade and the EU ban on Philippines carriers and hopefully we will be able to get the upgrade this year," Jimenez said to the business group.
In addition, the DoT has been very aggressive in coming up with a pricing and value package programs that are comparable with ASEAN countries.
Investments in tourism infrastructure have been underway with P8.1 billion allocation for access roads leading to airports and RORO ports. Another P12 billion fund been earmarked for the development of new international airports, he reported.
Jimenez also reported that the National Tourism Plan has just been finalized and this should be ready for the President Aquino's approval after the Holy Week.
The National Tourism Plan, which identifies all tourism programs until 2016, includes 21 cluster for development around the country placed under a digital catalog. The program also identifies 9 tourism product categories. These are nature; culture; sand and beach; cruise; meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions; health and wellness; marine, entertainment; and education.
To address the issue of public toilets, Jimenez said that instead of government investing in public toilets it will tap the safe and clean facilities of private establishments to open their comfort rooms to tourists.
He noted there are 500 McDonald restaurant outlets in the country, 800 Jollibee stores, over a thousand branches of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, and a thousand convenience stores nationwide.
"As we said, tourism is everyone's business, it is the people's business and the ability to participate is what makes it difference," he said.
According to Jimenez, the growth in tourist arrivals in February would show a sustained double-digit growth from the all-time high monthly 27 percent growth posted in the first month of the year.
"We are determined to get a fair share of the tourism market," said Jimenez, a successful advertising executive before he joined the government of President Aquino.