Downsides to China province’s visa-free offer to Filipinos

April 20, 2018 - 6:19 PM
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China recently announced that Filipinos can now visit Hainan province - dubbed as the "Eastern Hawaii" - visa-free for 30 days. However, the island is also dominated by military presence due to the South China Sea dispute. (Pixabay)

In an effort to further encourage tourists to go to China, President Xi Jinping has made Hainan province — dubbed as “China’s Hawaii” — visa-free for 59 countries, including the Philippines.

Filipinos can enjoy Hainan for 30 days starting May 1, 2018.

Qu Yunhai, deputy director of China’s State Immigration Administration, said at a press conference that the Chinese government aims to “move one step further to opening to the outside world.”

The offer does sound enticing but besides specific entry requirements, there are things Filipino travelers have to know.

 

In July 2017, the chief for International Relations Division of the now-dissolved China National Tourism Administration declared that Hainan would have direct flights to Manila through Hainan Airlines.

As of press time, direct flights from Manila to Hainan are still hard to come by.

Hainan Province is involved in the West Philippine Sea dispute.

China recently held a three-day naval drill near Hainan to impose its supposed claim on the area in light of the ongoing South China Sea dispute. The Asian giant has also built airstrips and other installations in strategic waterway in efforts to establish stronghold.

Expect soldiers around. Hainan boasts of a large military presence marked by several naval air stations. China’s largest submarine base is also found within the area.

Apart from that, the city administers features claimed by the Vietnam and the Philippines: The Paracel (Hoàng Sa) Islands which it calls “Xisha,” and the Spratly (Kalayaan) Islands which it calls “Nansha” and “Zhongsha.”

Among the islands that China is taking claim are Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank area. (Philstar/Google Maps)

Previously, China has mounted artificial islands in the Spratly, despite it being within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

Hainan also houses the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, which has established the nine-dash line claim on the waters against other countries claiming sovereignty. This claim has been junked by the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in favor of the Philippines in 2016.

But wait! It might be great to see the ‘Eastern Hawaii.’

Hainan is considered as the “Eastern Hawaii,” according to Travel China Guide.

Tourists who wanted to avail the 30-day visa-free opportunity can witness “soft beaches and beautiful tropical scenery” on the island.

It has been noted as a popular holiday destination among the Chinese.

Hainan’s famous attractions are the Asian Dragon Bay, Sanya Bay, Temple of Five Lords, Dongjiao Coconut Plantation, Nanshan Tourism Zone, Wuzhizhou Island, Luhuitou Peninsula, Dadonghai, Holiday Beach & Shimei Bay and Tianya Haijiao.

A beach in Sanya, Hainan province, China. (Photo by Dale Preston via Wikimedia)

Most of it are swimming spots that offer clear blue waters and fine white sands.

The province also offers round island-trip bicycle tours and five-day beach trips in Haikou and Sanya.