The Government of the Philippines is currently working on new legislation to create an “Immigration Superbody” that will help make it easier for foreigners to visit the Philippines. Here we go again…
Actually, it is not hard to visit the Philippines now, from the standpoint of immigration. In fact, the Philippines, to my knowledge, has one of the most liberal policies in the world in terms of the ease of visiting, how long you can stay here, etc. I mean, from most any developed country, you don’t even need to obtain a Visa to visit the Philippines and stay up to 30 days. When the 30 days is up, you can also extend your visa every 59 days for up to 16 months without a need to leave the country. How many countries can you visit for up to 16 months without even obtain a Visa in the first place? Not many that I am aware of.
OK, so according to news reports that I have read about this, it is still relatively unclear of exactly what this is. The reports say that a new agency will be created that will “institutionalize policies and procedures” to help make it easier for foreigners to visit the country for the purpose of “fostering investments, trade and commerce, cultural and scientific activities, tourism and international understanding.” Wow. What in the heck does that mean? Basically, the way I read it, they will create a new body to do exactly what the Bureau of Immigration does today. The purposes given for visiting are no different than anybody has for visiting already.
Now, at the beginning of this article, I said that it is already easy to visit the Philippines, in terms of immigration. However, in other terms, visiting the Philippines is very difficult as it stands today. However, from what I can tell, any new “Superbody” would have no impact on fixing the problems that exist today that make it difficult to visit the Philippines.
The fact is, and I have written about this many times in the past on my various websites, in terms of domestic travel via sea or air, and for hotel availability, it is very, very difficult for a foreign tourist to navigate the Philippines. Very few hotels in the country have the ability for a visitor to go on the Internet and book a room, pay for it online and such. In fact, very few hotels even have a website. Foreigners who want to visit the Philippines are often at a loss of where to stay, or even how to visit a place like Davao or some other area outside of Manila. How do I know this? Because I operate a lot of different websites about the Philippines, and I get dozens of e-mails from foreigners all over the world who can’t figure out how to get where they want to go, or how to find a hotel that might be suitable for them.
The Philippine Department of Tourism has it’s own websites to promote tourism in the country. Notice I said Websites, instead of Website. Yes, they have a lot of different websites, and none of them are complete. Instead of operating a half dozen different sites, the Department of tourism should really focus on a single website, and make it complete. The Department of Tourism should be working with Hotels around the country to help them become proficient at using the Internet to attract people to stay at their place, or even to let the prospective visitors know about what hotels are available.
In this Internet Age that we live in, this is all a very basic concept, a very, very basic task that should have been done ten years ago or more. Compare Thailand and the Philippines. For somebody who wants to visit Thailand, it is very easy to go online and in two hours or less they can plan their entire itinerary for a trip, book their various domestic travels, book their hotel rooms and such. Two hours, the entire two week trip is all planned, paid for, and just waiting to go. For the same tourist who wants to visit the Philippines, they could spend a week online, and still could not book their trip. I am sorry to say that, but it is simply true.
What the Philippines needs to do, in my opinion is to concentrate on helping people be able to visit the country easily by doing “tourist” type things, instead of changing the Government instituations. Like I said earlier, news reports are unclear about exactly what this new “Superbody” will change, and perhaps it will be a good thing. But, from the first look, it seems like something unnecessary to me.