Single-visa system for Asean proposed in House
MANILA, Philippines – Two lawmakers are pushing for a single-visa scheme among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to improve relations and boost tourism.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and his brother, Abante Mindanao Representative Maximo Rodriguez, have filed House Resolution 1313 urging the Department of Foreign Affairs to actively seek the establishment of a single-visa scheme across Asean.
“The proposed single-visa scheme, which would be similar to Europe’s unified visa system, will allow non-Asean nationals to enter the 10 member-states of the Asean using a single visa, thus saving them time and resources in securing such documents,” the authors said in an explanatory note.
The Asean states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (Filipinos can already enter these countries visa-free for a variable number of days, ranging from two weeks to a month.)
The lawmakers said a single-visa scheme would hasten the plan to establish an Asean Community.
The Rodriguezes said it would be beneficial for member-states, especially the Philippines, to have a single-visa scheme in Asean to boost its tourism industry.
They quoted Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. as saying: “We are a country that is away from the ‘land mass’ and so everybody else goes by train or by other forms of transportation across the other Asean nations… So when you have a single-visa, the tendency for tourists, for example, is to say, ‘I’m in Thailand but my visa is good for 10 countries, so I might as well go through all the 10’.”
Jimenez, however, admitted that it might take a while before a single-visa scheme could be realized because of economic disparities among the member states.
“The single-visa scheme means that the Philippines will respect the visa issued by other countries, say Singapore or Malaysia. That’s easy for us to say. But getting the other countries to accept the Philippine visa would mean that they acknowledge that we have good systems at par with theirs,” he said. “And it is clear that not all countries are currently prepared to do that.”
The Rodriguez brothers also cited the Asean Tourism Plan 2011-2015, which notes that while a single tourist visa system could substantially facilitate travel in the region, the “establishment of such a visa will not likely occur in the next five years due to barriers of technology, political issues, concerns of sovereignty and security and the different visa systems in the member-states.”
Even so, the lawmakers said, the DFA should seriously consider the idea and engage the other Asean members in a discussion on how to make it a reality.
They also cited commentary that a single-visa scheme in Asean would send a message to other countries like China that the region is united in the face of territorial disputes across the Pacific.
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