PHILIPPINE Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia-Albano will be lobbying for Visa-free entry to Japan for Filipinos, and the materialization of an international direct flight from Davao to Japan.

Garcia-Albano told members of the media on Monday morning, November 28 that Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, during the Commission on Appointments’ Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting in September this year, urged her to push the visa-free entry for all Filipinos The ambassador said it will be one of her priorities under her term.

She personally wondered why Filipinos are required to get a visa to Japan, while Japanese, on the other hand, is "visa-free."

"It is something that we can look into. I'm not sure how much work has been done about that... but certainly it's something we can work on," Garcia-Albano said, adding there should be a "reciprocal arrangement."

The ambassador said there has been an increase in Filipinos visiting Japan since the Covid-19 restriction on travel has been relaxed.

Citing a report from Japan Embassy in Manila, they are processing an average of 2,000 visa applications daily, with a processing period of three to five days for Metro Manila residents, and possibly up to two weeks for those outside the metro.

"Gusto sana natin na hindi na masyado tayong mahirapan para makapunta doon [sa Japan]," she said.

She would be meeting with key officials in Japan to possibly grant Filipinos the privilege to travel.

Garcia-Albano, also a former Davao City Second District Representative, is also eyeing a possibility of having a direct flight from Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao International Airport) to Japan.

Prior to the pandemic, she said that there were talks among private firms.

In a previous SunStar Davao report, Tokyo-based airlines All Nippon Airways (ANA) had studied for an establishment of a direct air link between Davao and Japan.

Other airline companies had also been studying the said route.

While this had to be studied, she is optimistic about a direct flight from Davao to Tokyo, Japan's capital, considering it is one of the prominent tourist destinations.

"That is something we would like to personally pursue," she added.

On the other hand, she said the Davao City government should step up its tourism promotion to give the Japanese "a reason to choose Davao over Cebu and Manila."

The official, prior to being appointed by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as ambassador, served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Davao City International Airport Authority.

Among her responsibilities was for the continuous improvement of the "busiest airport of Mindanao," which serves up to four million passengers annually.

Garcia-Albano is set to leave for Tokyo on Monday, December 5, where her office will be based.

As ambassador-designate, she is tasked to reaffirm the Philippines’ bilateral relations with Japan and safeguard the condition of 300,000 Filipino workers and migrants in the Asian country. RGL