Saturday, June 08, 2013

4 ASEAN countries agree to adopt common visa scheme

The Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia have agreed to develop a common smart visa system to boost tourism across Southeast Asia.

During the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia, ministers and tourism authorities of the four Asean member-states said they will facilitate travel in the region by developing a common smart visa system.

Tourism ministers of the four Asean member-states have signed the “Statement of Intent on SMART Visa” during the ongoing WEF meeting taking place in Nay Pyi Taw from June 5-7.

“By recognizing the importance of the connectivity in tourism activities, the statement of intent expresses our desire to give a boost to the tourism sector by facilitating the movement of tourists across borders; by going towards a smart visa through adopting best practices; and maximizing the use of technology to reduce the inefficiencies of the traditional visa application process,” Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. said in a statement.

“By signing this letter of intent, ministers and tourism authorities agree to work hand-in-hand for the implementation of this system, whose objective will be that of eliminating those barriers to the movement of tourists which are currently creating disincentives to travel. Such objectives will be achieved in close coordination with the governmental entities in each of their respective countries,” said U Htay Aung, Union Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar.

The statement of intent forms a part of joint efforts to improve growth of the national and regional travel and tourism sectors along with social integration.

More specifically, ministers of tourism have agreed to collaborate on working towards the Asean Common Visa initiative as called upon by leaders at the Asean Summit in Jakarta in November 2011.

It also builds on the single visa scheme for tourism travel between Cambodia and Thailand that began this year. Progressive relaxation and an Asean common visa would also benefit non-Asean nationals who intend to visit the region.

According to Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu, “Considering that tourism is a priority sector under the Asean Economic Community and that it constitutes a significant contribution to the integration of Asean countries, it is important to be ‘smart’ about visa facilitation for travel.”

In the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III had issued Executive Order 29, outlining his government' open-skies policy, which involves allowing foreign airlines to fly to airports other than the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).-Interaksyon

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