A record 4,187 visas to the Philippines were issued to the city’s holders of mainland Chinese or foreign passports in January alone, a number matching the whole of last year’s rate, Philippine Consul General in Macau Danilo T. Ibayan said Wednesday.
Ibayan told The Macau Post Daily that 95 percent of the visas issued in January was to holders of mainland Chinese passports.
Holders of Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) passport do not require a visa to visit the Philippines.
According to Ibayan, the number of visas issued in January was almost as many as the number of visas the consulate issued for the whole of 2012, which stood at 4,752.
“It’s an incredible increase,” Ibayan said, attributing the jump to a relatively more relaxed tourism environment his country can offer such as when Chinese people celebrated their biggest annual holiday, the Lunar New Year, last month, as well as the growing number of travel and tour agencies in Macau accredited by the Philippine government’s Department of Tourism.
Although the Philippines suffered last year a significant drop in the numbers of travellers from mainland China due a high-octane dispute between the two countries over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea at that time, the interest in leisure travel to the island nation among mainland Chinese has meanwhile started to pick up again.
According to Ibayan, there was a 44.86 percent growth in visitor arrivals from Macau between the first nine months of 2012 and 2011 and the consulate in Macau saw a 200 percent increase in the number of visas it issued in 2012 and 2011.
“Time is the best medicine for forgetting our differences and healing wounds,” Ibayan said, adding, “People begin to realise that political issues should not be something that affects a friendship, and the Chinese ancestry in the Philippines is prominent.”
Meanwhile, Vice Consul Fernando V. Beup Jr. said that while there are already 16,000 Filipinos living and working in Macau, there were more young graduates in the Philippines who were eager to join the workforce of the city’s growing hotel-casino industry.
Despite the planned opening of mega-casinos in the Philippines this year, the first one slated for Saturday, which will possibly lure local Filipinos home for work, Beup said that Macau as a hospitality and casino hub was still the No. 1 in the region and therefore still attractive as a destination for qualified jobseekers from the Philippines.
“We’ll see some expatriates going back to Manila but there will also be new ones coming to Macau and we have lots of young graduates every year that are looking for employment, the Philippines’ hotel industry is not as big [as Macau’s] to accommodate everyone,” Beup said.
Filipinos form Macau’s biggest foreign community, way ahead of Vietnamese, Portuguese, Indonesians and Nepalese.(macaunews)