Gov’t urged to lure more overseas Filipinos to visit PH

House of Representatives Minority Leader and 4Ps party-list Rep. Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan wants the government to encourage a larger number of overseas Filipinos to spend their holidays in the Philippines, saying their spending here can boost up the country’s tourism revenues and jobs growth to a great extent.

“We want the Tourism Promotions Board to draw up a new marketing plan that will purposely entice overseas Filipinos to come and visit their motherland,” Libanan said, referring to Filipinos who have become permanent residents or citizens of other countries.

“Compared to other foreign visitors, overseas Filipinos tend to spend considerably more money here during their vacations, mainly due to their strong social and economic ties,” Libanan pointed out.

Department of Tourism (DOT) figures show that a total of 396,147 Philippine passport holders who are permanent residents overseas visited the country from January to November 2023.

In 2022, a total of 628,445 Philippine passport holders who are permanent resident aliens abroad visited the country after the COVID-19 pandemic began to wane and global air traffic restrictions were lifted.

The DOT does not have figures on the number of Filipinos or former Filipinos who visited the Philippines using foreign passports.

“Many overseas Filipinos spend for the improvement of their ancestral homes here in the Philippines when they come for a visit, while others set up new investments, such as apartments for rent, to provide a recurring income stream to their relatives here,” Libanan said.

“They are also likely to purchase locally-made products for them to bring with them when they leave,” Libanan added.

Libanan has been batting for the passage of a bill that would upgrade the benefits and privileges enjoyed by returning Filipinos under the Balikbayan Program Law of 1989.

Under House Bill No. 6472, the aggregate tax-exempt purchase that returning Filipinos and other balikbayans may make at duty-free shops run by the DOT would be increased to $6,000.

At present, balikbayans are entitled to make only up to $3,500 in tax-exempt purchases at DOT duty-free shops, including up to $1,500 worth of discretionary consumer goods.

Balikbayans refer to Filipino citizens who have been out of the country for at least one year, and to former Filipino citizens and their family members who have been naturalized in a foreign country and who return to the Philippines.

Libanan is also author of the Dual Citizenship Law of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9225, which enables former natural-born Filipinos who have become naturalized citizens of another country to retain/reacquire their Philippine citizenship.

They can do so by taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines before a Philippine Consular Officer.

Upon retaining/reacquiring their Philippine citizenship, they shall enjoy full civil, economic and political rights as Filipinos.