PH to extend visa upon arrival to Chinese, Indians; VAT refund for tourists

President Ferdinand Marcos R. Marcos Jr. has accepted recommendations from the private sector to extend e-Visa upon arrival to Chinese and Indian nationals and the implementation of VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists (VRST) to further boost tourism in the country.

In a statement, the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) said the President accepted the group’s Tourism Sector additional quick-win recommendations based on private sector experience and expertise during their meeting last Jan. 26.

Currently, there are 69 countries that offer VRST, with the Philippines being the only major Asian country without such a scheme.

Already, government agencies are assigned to collaborate and study the most appropriate implementation plans.

The PSAC Tourism Sector also stressed the importance of the traveler experience, which would be improved through the integration of arrival and departure requirements in a single form, along with the automatic inclusion of travel tax in all airline tickets, and the removal of outdated advisories in aircraft and ports of entry.

Looking to establish foundations for a revitalized tourism industry beyond quick wins, PSAC consulted and collaborated with stakeholders to identify three short-term goals that would have far-reaching effects: the improvement of airport infrastructure and operations, the management of the national brand and image, and the promotion of tourism investments.

This was Robinsons Land Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Frederick D. Go’s final PSAC meeting as Tourism Sector Lead, following his appointment as Presidential Adviser for Investment and Economic Affairs. Go will be succeeded by JG Summit Holdings President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei at his role as Tourism Sector Lead.

“With pandemic-related travel restrictions lifted, we Filipinos are ready to showcase the Philippines as a world-class tourist destination. PSAC is in support of the administration’s tourism agenda, particularly in boosting infrastructure and systems that will support the many travelers looking to discover the unique beauty of our country,” Go said.

“It has been a privilege being part of such an esteemed group. There is no doubt that they will continue to provide well-thought-out advice and plans to our President, which will serve the needs of our economy and people. I look forward to the future discussions and interactions we will have in my new capacity,” he added.

The president has already implemented the first two of the quick-win initiatives originally proposed by PSAC since their meeting in September last year. These are the implementation of Holiday Economics, and the replacement of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) military uniforms with inconspicuous clothing.

Holiday Economics means the moving of select holidays to the nearest Monday, thereby increasing the number of long weekends and promoting domestic tourism. On November 11, 2022, less than two months after the initial PSAC Tourism Sector meeting, Presidential Proclamation No. 90 was released declaring the regular holidays and special non-working holidays for the forthcoming year. In 2023, there will be 10 identified long weekends that Filipinos can enjoy and take advantage of, re-discovering the wonders of the country in this climate of post-lockdown “revenge travel.”

On the PCG personnel in military uniform were deployed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to assist in carrying out mandated controls and restrictions, PSAC recommended replacing the uniforms with inconspicuous clothing to create a positive and welcoming atmosphere for travelers and visitors. Last November, the uniforms were replaced with regular attire, and, to date, there are no more PCG personnel deployed at NAIA.

Considering the success of the quick-win initiatives in jumpstarting the tourism industry, PSAC Lead Convenor and Aboitiz Group President and CEO Sabin Aboitiz works alongside the PSAC Tourism Sector members: LT Group Chief Operating Officer (COO) Lucio Tan III, Quorum Holdings Corporation Chairman Emeritus Roberto “Bobby” Claudio, Sr., Filinvest Development Corporation President and CEO Joji Gotianun Yap, and Hertz Philippines CEO Rene Limcaoco.

The Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) has been established strategically by President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr to create and strengthen innovative new synergies between the private and public sectors. PSAC is composed of business leaders and experts across six main sectoral groups — Agriculture, Digital Infrastructure, Jobs, Healthcare, Build-Build-Build, and Tourism. The Council will help the government deliver on its commitment to transform the Philippine economy by implementing robust infrastructure programs, creating more jobs and attracting more investors, digitizing processes, improving agricultural productivity through the recalibration of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), jumpstart Philippine Tourism and ensuring an equitable, sustainable, and inclusive business landscape for Filipinos. PSAC will continuously recommend modern policy development to the government and report regularly to the President to provide feedback and adjust recommendations as necessary based on what is happening on the ground.