Commentaries

On the “Unfair” Treatment of US To Pinoys RE: Visa Policy

The dumb argument comes alive again, as the Duterte supporters are crying that the United States is imposing visa restrictions on Filipinos while Americans can freely visit the Philippines without any need of a visa.

It is true that the United States and the Philippines are mutual allies for more than half a century. However the US is yet to grant the Philippines with a visa-free travel (by now chances are nil). On the other hand, former enemies like Japan, Germany and Italy are granted visa-free travel through its Visa Waiver program (VWP).

In Asia, five countries (not three as what unverified Facebook posts are saying) are included in the VWP: Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Why is this so? Is the US really unfair with its visa policy?

The counter-argument is, that Filipinos tend to overstay (the “tago-ng-tago” or “TNT”) if they would be given a chance, given the unpleasant situation the Philippines in terms of economic opportunities. The same reason why South Korea has imposed stricter visa requirements on Filipinos last year.

As far as I know, there are also issues on Filipinos overstaying in visa-free countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Another argument they are opening up are the allegedly arrogant behavior of the consuls in the US Embassy. I don’t know if there are any complaint desk in the Embassy on dealing with these “arrogant” consuls.

Another thing which complicates the visa process is the security concern, given the prevalence of terrorist Islamist organizations in the country especially in Mindanao. This is already an issue in Europe given the cross-border activities of terrorist personalities there, like the recent attacks in Paris and Nice in France. The Schengen Agreement, wherein citizens of member countries can travel freely to other member country without border control, has been shaken by these incidents. (I experienced it beforehand, travelling across Schengen countries is like travelling domestically). Some countries are already reimposing pre-Schengen border control. Maybe one of the reasons why the United Kingdom wants to secede from the European Union.

Retaliation by imposing US passport holders (or those from any Western nations) with visa restriction is even more harmful to the Philippines. The Philippines has since not imposing visa restrictions in most progressive countries, as it helps in boosting tourism. Impose visa restrictions, those citizens will shun the Philippines, definitely. They will chose a country whose travelling is more convenient, those which saves their time from having to prepare cumbersome visa applications. And let’s admit that the Philippines in general is not as pleasant as in other countries: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (or Manila International Airport, if you insist) and the Manila traffic is already horrible enough to give wary to the visitors.

I think that the long term solution is to improve the economic situation in the Philippines, so that rich nations would not need to impose visa restrictions on us. Improved economic situation in the country will in some ways remove any temptation of every Filipino to overstay abroad.

#HuwagTanga

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