Nancy Binay

Personal appearance requirement for e-visa applicants pressed

August 1, 2023 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 141 views

SENATOR Nancy Binay urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to make personal appearances at consular offices as a non-negotiable requirement for some categories applying for e-visas.

Binay welcomed the pilot implementation of Philippines’ first-ever electronic visa on August 24 but also urged the foreign affairs department to come up with better homeland security policies to avoid being circumvented by non-technical loopholes, and to lessen the probability of organized syndicates exploiting tour groups and junkets.

“We welcome the implementation of e-visas not only to positively boost tourism, but also as our commitment to facilitate ease of travel. In the same vein, we urge the DFA and NICA to refine national security policies to deter undesirable travelers from extra-legally bypassing immigration laws. Alam naman nating marami ring pumupunta sa Pilipinas na iba ang pakay—mas i-review natin ang mga sistema at exemptions to avoid any misuse and abuse by some foreign nationals,” she pointed out.

Electronic visa (e-visa) is the digital version of the standard visa that allows foreign travelers to enter a certain country for a specific period or purpose. In lieu of physical holographic stamps or stickers on the passport, applicants instead receive an e-visa approval code which is linked to their passports.

She noted that digitalization should improve ease of travel without compromising national security.

“Though the e-visa system temporarily gives us an opportunity to recover and jumpstart Philippine tourism, kailangan natin magkaroon ng serious strategic decision on embracing the system as a modern travel solution. Every visa decision has a national security dimension. Certain parameters on security should be in place, and apply a multi-layered safety plug plus a face-to-face interview to a narrow category of travelers para talagang salang-sala ang mga pumapasok sa bansa,” Binay added.

“Mas laganap ngayon ang transnational crimes lalo na ang human trafficking and prostitution na mula Mainland China. Gaano ba kasigurado tayo na ang nabibigyan natin ng e-visa eh talagang mga lehitimong turista? As a matter of national interest, I share the DFA’s position to require face-to-face interviews with tourist visa applicants whose profiles fall in marked categories,” Binay explained.

The senator advised the DFA to proceed with caution, and added that the Bureau of Immigration should also have a system to check on foreign nationals overstaying in the country.

According to Binay, considering that the Philippines is the only ASEAN country with a Tier 1 status under the US State Department’s annual human trafficking report, DFA cannot turn a blind eye on media reports involving alleged trafficking of Chinese workers to the country.

DFA is scheduled to pilot the e-visa on August 24 starting with China and India. The Philippine e-visa will later allow foreign travelers to enter the country for tourism and business to apply for temporary visas online.