DFA wants to increase ABTC holders in PH

SEAMLESS TRAVEL. From left, Kenneth Juan, from the office of Ambassador Francisco Benedicto; Virgilio Espeleta, (foreground, holding mic), president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Maria Elena Arbon, assistant regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry; Stanley Go, immediate past president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Elizabeth Reyes, lawyer and past president of Cebu Travel Agents Association; Michelle So, moderator and editor of SunStar Cebu; and Marisol Cañeja, senior laywer at Cañeja & Associates, during a panel discussion of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card roadshow at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Sunstar Photo / Arni Aclao)

TRAVELING businessmen now have the option of a hassle-free travel.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is easing the requirements for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Business Travel Card (ABTC), which grants business people visa-free travel to 19 Apec member countries, except the US and Canada.

“Local business is receptive of the idea behind ABTC as it fasttracks entry in immigration lines in airports just like diplomats,” said Oliver Delfin, International economic relations acting director at DFA.

The DFA is seeking to increase the number of ABTC holders among Filipinos by tapping local business groups to become certifying business organizations (CBOs) for ABTC.

Currently, the Philippines has only three CBOs and these are all based in Manila. These are the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Makati Business Club and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.

Local chambers such as the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) are urged to apply as certifying agencies to decentralize the certification.

“This is beneficial to businessmen in certain industries who do a lot of travels and business in covered Apec countries,” MCCI incoming president Steven Yu told SunStar Cebu, following DFA’s roadshow on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Cebu City to increase the Cebu business community’s awareness on the ABTC.

Streamlining the application process is a good move, Yu said, adding ABTC’s validity period has also been extended.

“One of the issues raised was the application fee which the business stakeholders are clamoring to have reduced,” he said.

Valid for five years, getting an ABTC costs from P10,000 to P20,000 plus the value added tax, according to the PCCI.

“Businessmen who do regular business in Australia and go there frequently, for example, save time and money from the multiple processing of visas every time they visit. Same with other Apec countries with similar requirements,” Yu said.

According to Delfin, there’s a growing interest on the ABTC.

The DFA has streamlined the requirements for ABTC from 16 to eight documents and has also now allowed individual applications.

Top government officials, who usually go on business-related travels, may also apply for ABTC.

The 21 Apec members are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

Established in 1989, Apec is a regional economic forum aimed at leveraging the growing interdependence of the Asia Pacific. (CSL)


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