President Rodrigo Duterte created an executive order regulating the arrivals of foreigners in Subic Bay Freeport Zone after an increase of international cruise ships docking in the country was observed.
Executive Order 72 (series of 2018) declares that foreigners visiting Subic for business or tourism purposes are only allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of 14 days without a visa.
Planned extensions would require them to present to the Bureau of Immigration their passports and certificates of travel documents valid for at least six months.
Furthermore, foreigners are only allowed to leave the country through the Subic Bay International Airport or the Subic Bay Piers and Wharves.
The order was an amendment to Executive Order 271 (series of 1995) signed by former President Fidel Ramos that governs the admission and stay of foreign nationals in Subic as temporary visitors.
Based on Duterte’s EO, the amendment was done to prevent the arrival of foreigners being a “detriment to national security,” although it did not specify particular nationalities.
It also noted that each international cruise ship that arrived in the Philippines this year was estimated to have an average of 1,600 passengers and 1,000 crew members onboard.
“It is anticipated that there will be a continued increase in cruise ship arrivals in Subic Bay in 2019 onwards,” the EO stated.
The news caused some social media users to express their concern on the mentioned influx.
Influx of foreign nationals at alarming stage!
PRRD issues executive order providing guidelines for admission, stay of foreign nationals in Subic Bay Freeport Zone as temporary visitors. pic.twitter.com/vJWjd6ESus
— zaldy torres (@zaldytor) December 20, 2018
Subic Bay as next cruise ship playground
In 2017, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) announced that they were expecting an increase in the arrival of international cruise ships under the “Tourism Star” agenda.
The agenda was developed to promote Subic’s tourism and maximize its potential as a world-class tourist destination.
The announcement came after a German-operated expedition ship, MS Bremen, docked in Subic Bay.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma shared in May 2017, “With the recent port call of the MS Bremen, we have proven once again that the Subic Bay Freeport can easily be a preferred destination for cruise ships.”
“This is really fortuitous for us because under our Tourism Star program, the SBMA seeks to promote Subic as the next cruise ship playground, alongside other objectives like creating a Subic tourism brand and expanding existing tourism programs,” she added.
SMBA declared on February 2018 that they expected 15 international cruise ships to dock in the country but a month after, they remarked that “at least 20 cruise-ships” were scheduled.
These included Italian-operated MV Costa Atlantica, Hong Kong-operated MS Superstar Gemini and MV Glory Sea and two other cruise ships operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line—MS Ovation of the Seas and MS Voyager of the Seas.
Eisma praised the increase of the international cruise ships in Subic, describing it as a “new milestone” and a “surge.”
“Subic is ready to offer the best tourism facilities and services for cruise-ship passengers, and we are betting that our visitors would find their experiences here—as well as in the neighboring areas of Zambales and Bataan—most memorable,” she said.