Visa-free entry urged for Chinese traders to boost tourism, investment
Chinese businessmen should be allowed to enter the Philippines visa-free, while restrictions on foreign ownership must be relaxed to boost tourism and investments, analysts said on Thursday.
Such moves could boost the country’s economic status, with political and military ties once soured by a territorial dispute now on the mend following President Duterte’s recent state visit to China, they said.
Uni-Orient Travel Inc. chair Stephen Techico, also of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines, said allowing Chinese travellers to enter here visa-free should be prioritized.
He said the move could help counter the lingering effects of a 2010 hostage-taking incident that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, and allow the Philippine tourism industry to catch up with other countries in the region.
China’s surging economy meant that there was also no longer any fear that Chinese travelers would choose to stay behind in the Philippines, Techico said.
He said the current average of around 100,000 Chinese tourists visiting the Philippines could surpass the one million mark, but said the country must have the capacity to absorb them in terms of infrastructure and facilities.
Philippine Association of Chinese Studies president and incoming ambassador to China, Chito Sta. Romana, said that the idea of lifting the visa requirement was still under study by the Department of Tourism.
“The basic approach is to bolster tourism on both sides. There are more Filipino tourists now in China so we want first to balance that and then to hit the 1 million tourist target,” Sta. Romana told the China-Philippine Dialogue 2016 in Makati. “The question really is capacity. Whether we have enough hotels and other facilities.”
He said there have been discussions on easing up the foreign ownership rule by way of charter change, but it would be a long process.
Patrick Ip, of the China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund, meanwhile noted gaps in several sectors requiring resources that have held back Chinese investments here, including the restrictions on foreign ownership.
He said the Philippines share in China’s investments to Asean amounted only to $44 million, compared to $18 billion in Vietnam. Lower production costs in other Southeast Asian countries have also effectively lured away direct foreign investments.
Ip said logistics required to move products for export were also higher here, with the country being an archipelago. He said that infrastructure spending, which could focus on increasing Philippines-China interconnectivity, should increase from just two percent of the gross domestic product.
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