By Zaldy De Layola

(File photo)

MANILA – House Minority Leader and 4Ps party-list Rep. Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan on Friday urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to encourage Filipinos abroad to spend their holidays in the Philippines to help boost the country’s tourism revenues through their spending.

“We want the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism to draw up a new marketing plan that will purposely entice overseas Filipinos to come and visit their motherland,” Libanan said, referring to all Filipinos who have become permanent residents or citizens of foreign countries.

Libanan said that compared to other foreign visitors, overseas Filipinos tend to spend considerably more money in their original homeland during vacations, mainly due to their strong social and economic ties with the country folks.

DOT figures show that a total of 396,147 Philippine passport holders who are permanent residents overseas visited the country from January to November this year.

In 2022, a total of 628,445 Philippine passport holders who are permanent resident aliens abroad visited the country after the Covid-19 pandemic began to wane and global air traffic restrictions were lifted.

The DOT does not have figures on the number of Filipinos or former Filipinos who visited the Philippines using foreign passports.

“Many overseas Filipinos spend for the improvement of their ancestral homes here in the Philippines when they come for a visit, while others set up new investments, such as apartments for rent, to provide a recurring income stream to their relatives here,” Libanan said.

Aside from those, they are also likely to purchase locally-made products to be brought by them to their new homeland when they leave, he added.

Libanan has been batting for the passage of a bill that would upgrade the benefits and privileges enjoyed by returning Filipinos under the Balikbayan Program Law of 1989.

Under House Bill No. 6472, which has been pending with the House Committee on Ways and Means since it was first read on Dec. 5, 2022, the aggregate tax-exempt purchase, that returning Filipinos and other balikbayans may make at duty-free shops run by the DOT, would be increased to USD6,000. The bill was filed Dec. 1, 2022.

At present, balikbayans are entitled to make only up to USD3,500 in tax-exempt purchases at DOT duty-free shops, including up to USD1,500 worth of discretionary consumer goods.

Balikbayans refer to Filipino citizens who have been out of the country for at least one year, and to former Filipino citizens and their family members who have been naturalized in a foreign country and who returned to the Philippines.

Libanan is also the author of the Dual Citizenship Law of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9225, which enables former natural-born Filipinos who have become naturalized citizens of another country to retain/reacquire their Philippine citizenship.

They can do so by taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines before a Philippine Consular Officer.

Upon retaining/reacquiring their Philippine citizenship, they shall enjoy full civil, economic, and political rights as Filipinos. (PNA)