To encourage more entrepreneurs to secure an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced it is easing the requirements for the privilege.
The ABTC is valid for 5 years and serves as visa waiver for business owners and executives to all 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies except for the US and Canada, said Office of the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Acting Director Oliver Delfin.
He added that the goal of ABTC, with its designated special lanes in immigration zones, is to enhance business mobility within APEC.
Aside from streamlining requirements from 16 to 8 documents for the card, the DFA also now allows individual applications as an alternative to going through certifying business organizations (CBOs).
Right now, the three CBOs for the Philippines are concentrated in Manila and include the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Makati Business Club (MBC), and Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PhilExport).
Speaking at the first ever APEC Business Travel Card Roadshow and Concept Note and Project Proposal Writing Workshop held in Cebu from Jan.13-14, 2020, Delfin said they have opened certification to all interested business groups throughout the country as part of efforts to decentralize certification. He invited business chambers in the Visayas and Mindanao to apply as certifying agencies.
High-ranking government officials may also apply for an ABTC especially if they serve as representative to APEC meetings or frequently go on business-related travels.
When it comes to availment of a business travel card, the Philippines is currently at the bottom of the list, according to Delfin.
This might be because very few business owners are aware of the ABTC, said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Virgilio “Nonoy” Espeleta, adding that they only processed five applications in the past year and two or three of these were renewals.
Espelita was one of the panelists in Monday’s ABTC discussion moderated by Sun.Star Publishing Executive Editor Michelle So. The rest of the panel include Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) President Stanley Go, Global Star Motors Corporation Senior Vice President Kenneth Huan, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Cebu Provincial Director Ma. Elena Arbon, Land and Sky Travel Services, Inc. CEO Elizabeth Reyes, and Atty. Marisol Caneja.
With Cebuanos being very particular about getting value for their money, Go said DFA should try to make it more attractive particularly to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Espeleta agreed that the ABTC should have a unique value proposition to business owners.
Reyes said that many of the APEC economies already allow visa-free entry for Filipinos. Caneja, on the other hand, pointed out that the card becomes useful in situations like a businesswoman needing to immediately travel to Japan as a result of a business meeting in Russia. She said that with the card, she can immediately do so. Without it, she couldn’t travel because of the time needed to process a visa.