Visa-free travel by Filipinos to Japan still a proposal
MANILA, Philippines—The Japanese Embassy clarified Wednesday that a proposal to waive the visa requirement for Filipino tourists remains a plan as such a move would require a formal agreement between Tokyo and Manila.
Miwa Yamatoya, press officer at the Japanese Embassy in Manila, said the reported visa waiver plan would need “comprehensive consideration” by the two countries.
The Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Tuesday that the Japanese government and the ruling coalition “are making arrangements” to exempt tourists from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam from the visa requirement in an effort to boost tourism.
“At this point, the exemption of visa for these three countries and the possibility of including this in the ‘action plan’ has not reached any conclusion,” Yamatoya told the Inquirer.
Saying the embassy was “unable to confirm” the Kyodo story, Yamatoya said that while there has been a demand for Japan to relax its visa policies, the issuance of a waiver to any nation would need consultations between Japan and the country involved.
“While promoting us as a tourism-oriented country, the Japanese government has recognized there are demands of relaxing the policy on visa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also intends to promote more on tourism,” Yamatoya said, responding to a query via e-mail.
“However, regarding the visa issue, there will be comprehensive consideration, such as the bilateral relationship between countries and diplomatic purposes. There also will be a need for talks between the concerned government ministries,” she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to issue any comment.
According to the Kyodo report, the proposal is aimed at attracting more tourists from Southeast Asia in order to boost arrivals in Japan ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Last year, Japan already relaxed visa requirements for Southeast Asian travelers, waiving the visa requirement for Thailand and Malaysia. Kyodo said this led to a 61 percent increase in tourist arrivals from the two countries.
At the same time, it granted the issuance of multiple-entry visas to Filipino tourists last June, a privilege only previously accorded Filipinos visiting Japan for commercial purposes, artists and specialists (athletes, professors and government officials) and immediate family members of Japan residents.
This caused a little confusion especially in social media last year as some thought the Philippines was already included in the waiver, prompting the Japanese Embassy to issue a clarification about the amended multiple-entry visa privilege at the time.
Japan offers other types of visas for Filipinos, including single-entry visas for spouses, relatives or friends of Japan residents and visas for medical stay.
Japan has long been a popular destination for Filipino tourists and workers alike. Some 110,000 Filipinos visited Japan last year, according to the Kyodo report.
Data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas showed that as of the end of 2012, nearly 159,000 Filipinos were permanent residents in Japan, more than 77,200 were temporary visitors while 6,910 were known to be of irregular status.
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