By MARIE-ALSIE G. PENARANDA
HONOLULU (PhilAmPress) – Don’t look now but if Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. has his way, there will be no imposition of visa and visa fees for Americans and Filipino Americans to travel to the Philippines.
Yasay allayed concerns of US citizens about the possibility of securing Philippine visa as earlier proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
While in China, Duterte said he was toying with the idea of imposing the Philippine visa for Americans since thousands of Filipinos get US visa and pay for visa fees to be able to travel to America.
“Bakit hindi natin tablahin (Why don’t we equalize),” Duterte said in Beijing as he announced that Manila would veer away from the US.
Yasay told the Hawaii crowd that there is no change in the current practice allowing US citizens, including Filipinos who have been naturalized as US citizens, to travel to the Philippines for a period of 30 days or less without visa.
There are now 4.5 million Filipinos in the US, most of whom have become US citizens and would be affected by the proposed Philippine visa requirement.
He said that the Philippines looks forward to a stronger relationship with the US following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
Yasay Jr. spoke during a town hall meeting with the Filipino-American community in Honolulu on his way to Peru for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual meeting.
The town hall meeting allowed community leaders and members of the media to ask questions about recent developments in the Philippines.
The town hall meeting, held on Nov. 12, was organized by the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu and moderated by Allan Alvarez, radio talk show host of Honolulu Radio KPHI.
In attendance were Hawaii’s Senator Donna Mercado Kim and Vice Speaker John Mizuno, Sstate Representative Romeo Cachola, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, media personalities and leaders of the Filipino-American community.
Yasay said that the Philippines is pursuing an independent foreign policy because it is provided for in the Philippine Constitution. He quoted Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states, “The state shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”
He also replied to questions on the anti-drugs war of President Rodrigo Duterte, saying that the Philippine government is serious about fighting the drug war since it affects many sectors of the society, that the government does not and will not allow extrajudicial killings, and that the police follow strict rules on engagement in their police operations. (PhilAmPress)