South Koreans lead tourist arrivals

Manila, Philippines - More South Koreans are visiting the country this year as South Korea has replaced the United States, Japan and China in the top slots on the number of tourist arrivals. Bureau of Immigration (BI) Officer-In-Charge Siegfred Mison said more than 1 million Koreans arrived in the country from Jan. 1 to Dec. 5. Second placer was the US with 649,664 tourists, followed by Japan with P371,122, and China, 313,395. The BI chief said China used to occupy the top spot during the past two years but went down to number four this year. Mison could not explain the slowdown in the arrival of Chinese tourists. But insiders said it could be due to the massacre of Chinese nationals at the Luneta in 2011 and the ongoing tension over the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea between Manila and Beijing. In the same press conference, Mison appealed to foreign nationals staying in the country to respect our immigration laws. “If you are a tourist and wanted to work in the country then change your status to working visa,” he said, adding that it is not his intention to send foreigners to jail. Mison was referring to last week’s apprehension by BI agents of a number of foreigners for allegedly operating stalls unlawfully inside the popular bargain center 168 in Binondo, Manila. He said only four of the tourists are still at the BI detention jail in Bicutan, Taguig for being undocumented aliens. Many were freed after it was established that they were Filipino citizens. Others were released temporarily for further investigation as they claimed they were holder of either retireee or investor’s visas. Still others claimed being permanent residents married to Filipino citizens.