Filipinos rank 69th among nationalities with visa-free travel privileges
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines ranks 69th at the Henley and Partners Visa Restriction Index of 2013, a global ranking of countries according to travel freedom their citizens enjoy.
The company has analyzed the visa regulations of various countries and territories in the world and made a ranking according to the visa-free access of their citizens to other countries.
According to the index, there are 58 countries and territories that allow Filipinos to enter their borders visa-free, only needing a valid Philippine passport.
The number pales in comparison to Finnish, Swedish, and British passport holders who are allowed to enter 173 of the 219 countries and territories worldwide without a visa.
The Philippines allows 157 countries to enter its borders visa-free as part of the country's efforts to attract more tourists and investors.
But how come the Philippines only has the same privilege to over 50 countries and territories abroad?
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Rafael Seguis says the government continues to hold regular bilateral consultations with different countries to further the interests of the country and the Filipino people – travel privileges, among them.
"If it is to our interest that Filipino tourists be given visa-free entry [to a certain country], then we raise this during consultations. However, that's just one-half of the equation," Seguis says.
He adds that it is a country's prerogative to grant visa-free access to particular nationals. Some countries grant such privileges due to their desire to attract more foreign tourists, to facilitate transnational business transactions, or to encourage more people-to-people exchanges with another country.
Though the Philippines' ranking doesn't necessarily mean that Filipinos are less welcome to other countries compared to citizens of those that ranked higher on the index, Seguis admits that image plays a big role in making Filipino travelers more attractive to other countries.
"So, for instance, if there is a great risk for example for Filipinos to overstay or stay illegally, then that country would definitely not give visa-free entry to Filipino nationals," he says. "Countries, like our own, the Philippines, learn from experience. If Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) stay illegally or historically do overstay, then one way to correct the situation is to impose more visa restrictions on Filipinos. "
Back in 2012, Gulf News reported that there are over 7,000 overstaying Filipinos in Saudi Arabia alone.
The DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) often work on information drives to remind OFWs to go through the proper channels when seeking employment abroad, abide by their host country's laws, and go back to the Philippines when their contracts and visas expire.
Three of the Philippines' Fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries ranked high in the index – Singapore is on the 6th spot with 167 countries allowing their citizens visa-free access, Malaysia is on the 9th spot with 163 countries, and Brunei is on the 19th with 146 countries.
Thailand ranked 60th, with 68 countries while Indonesia (73rd place, 53 countries), Cambodia (79th place, 47 countries), Laos (80th place, 46 countries), Vietnam (81st place, 45 countries), and Myanmar (86th place, 40 countries) ranked lower than the Philippines.
The Palestinian Territory (90th place, 36 countries), Pakistan (91st place, 32 countries), Somalia (91st place, 32 countries), Iraq (92nd place, 31 countries), and Afghanistan (93rd place, 28 countries) make the bottom 5.
Want to see the full list? You can download it here.
What do you think? What should Filipinos do abroad to change our image? Which countries would you like Filipinos to have visa-free privileges to? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.