Visa upon arrival to attract millions of Mazuist to PH

MANILA — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Thursday said the implementation of the visa upon arrival (VUA) program will drive more Chinese tourists, particularly followers of Mazuism to look at the Philippines as its next festival hub.

In 2009, the Mazu culture has been added to the “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo said, “as a country blessed with so many heritage festivals ourselves, the Philippines can draw out from Mazu cultural tour festival’s overwhelming turnout year on year.”

As per the DOT, around 300 million Mazuists worldwide celebrate Mazu’s birth, a Chinese sea goddess, every 23rd day of March on the lunar calendar and also observe her ascent every 9th of September.

Teo said the department’s plans of growing cultural festival in the country would definitely pave way for cultural diversity to flourish.

“As a melting pot of many different cultures, religions, the Philippines stands to benefit in embracing this centuries-old Eastern belief,” she said.

Teo bared that a Chinese Mazu Cultural Center would soon rise in Manila Bay under the auspices of Friends of the Philippines’ Foundation (FPF).

The said hub will feature a six-meter-high Mazu statue at the bay showcasing many tourism, business, leisure, and cultural activities.

“This should become a centerpiece for economic and cultural exchanges between Chinese and the Philippines, promoting the valuable Mazu culture as well as advancing Sino-Philippine friendship,” the tourism chief said.

Teo was among the key personalities from across the globe invited by the FPF in the recently concluded Mazu cultural tour festival held at Tin Hau Temple at Coloane in Macau.

Two months since the Department of Justice rolled out the VUA option to Chinese citizens, DOT said arrivals from China surged by 54.92 percent from 61,766 arrivals August 2016 to 95,687 of same period this year.

“If these figures are any indication, the Philippines can certainly piggyback on VUA to attract more Chinese travelers considering that a huge number of this market is package-tour buyers,” Teo said.

“I am confident this ease in visa requirement is an attractive proposition for the country to host big-ticket events such as Mazu culture festival,” she said, pointing to the 300 million Mazuists worldwide. Joyce Ann Rocamora/PNA