By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, November 14, 2023; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is preparing to roll out the e-visa to India after expanding the system’s beta testing on all its seven foreign service posts (FSPs) in China.

“Further to the President’s policy directive on the implementation of the e-Visa system, the DFA is preparing to expand e-Visa operations to India before the end of the year in view of reciprocity in visa policies and the economic potential of the Indian tourism market,” DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza told the Philippine News Agency.

Latest data from the Department of Tourism showed India ranked 12th among top foreign visitors in 2023, with 58,504 recorded as of October 2023.

Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran early this month also asked President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to allow the extension of e-visas for Indian nationals who are staying in the Philippines.

The DFA soft-launched the Philippine e-visa system, starting with Chinese tourists in Shanghai, China last August.

Daza said the operations of the system have since been expanded to all seven Philippine FSPs in China under beta testing parameters.

“Under the said parameters, walk-in and remote e-Visa applicants are assisted by Post’s personnel to address inquiries and technical issues in navigating the system,” she said.

From Aug. 24 to Nov. 6, all Philippine embassies and consulates in China issued a total of 1,739 Philippine e-visas.

“The DFA gathered that the e-visa applicants can navigate the e-visa system with general ease, and received the necessary support for minor technical difficulties,” Daza said. “Refinements to the system are continuously being deployed with the assistance of the Department of Information and Communications Technology based on the feedback of clients and issuing FSPs.”

On top of the e-visa initiative, the DFA is also working to improve consular services for Filipinos.

Last Oct. 31, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo convened a meeting with DFA officials to improve consular efforts, which he said already led to shorter turnaround times, faster complaint resolution and process digitalization.

“We aim for much more enhanced service to Filipinos through our ASEANA office and the 37 consular offices across the Philippines,” he said.

As of October 2023, the DFA has issued a total of 2,817,282 passports, down from the 3,589,623 issued in the same period last year.

Daza said the decrease was caused by the implementation of the 10-year validity of passports in 2018.