by Genalyn D. Kabiling
The United States should consider lifting visa requirements for Filipino tourists or else the Philippines might be forced to impose similar restrictions to American travelers to the country.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made the call in support of President Duterte’s plan to compel American tourists to get a visa before entering the Philippines.
“If they are not willing to grant us the same privilege, we might also require their citizens to come to our country to apply for a visa in our embassies,” Alvarez said in a media interview in Tokyo.
Alvarez, a member of the President’s delegation to Japan, has bewailed the lack of reciprocity between the Philippines and the United States when it comes to travel.
At present, he said, Filipinos must pay for a tourist visa before being permitted to enter the United States. Americans, on other hand, are free to visit and roam around the country without any visa.
“I want to pursue that idea of the President because normally, we have this reciprocity thing that when your country accepts, let’s say, a citizen of a particular country visa-free so you do the same,” Alvarez said.
“I’m wondering this is the only time that I know that US citizens, as long as they carry their US passport, when they come to the country, they have no visa. Whereas, Filipinos are required to fall in line about as early as 3 a.m. just to apply for a US visa. I think there must be a reciprocity also,” he added.
Alvarez said the Philippines must assert its sovereignty as a nation “if we want others to respect us.”
“Ang hirap kasi nasanay yung Filipinos na bine-baby ang Amerika. Para bang hindi sila pwedeng magkamali, lahat ng gagawin nila ay tama,” he said.
Alvarez said it was now up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to implement the new visa scheme for American tourists as proposed by the President last week.
On the issue of Filipinos skipping immigration rules in the US, Alvarez said this was the problem that must be addressed by Washington, not Manila. “Yung TNT sa kanila, problema nila. Tayo naman kung may nag-TNT sa atin, problema natin yun,” he added.
In his recent display of anti-US sentiment, the President announced he was considering implementing visa restrictions to American tourists to the Philippines. Duterte resented that the US has been giving Filipinos a hard time with visa restrictions, saying it was payback time.