VAT REFUND PROGRAM. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with members of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Tourism Sector Group at Malacañan Palace on Jan. 26, 2023. During their meeting, Marcos approved the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists by 2024 to boost tourist arrivals in the country. (Photo courtesy of Bongbong Marcos Facebook page)


– President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists by 2024 to boost tourist arrivals in the country.

In a news release on Sunday, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) announced that Marcos approved the VAT Refund Program following the “Quick Wins” recommendations of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Tourism Sector Group.

Marcos also approved the PSAC recommendation to roll out e-visa by 2023, prioritizing China and India; and the removal of One Health Pass (OHP) or requirement of one form only for health, immigration and customs.

PSAC had also recommended the revocation of outdated advisories and loud-speaker announcements in the country’s airports and the automatic inclusion of travel tax in all airline tickets.

Palace officials earlier said Marcos will issue an executive order to implement the tax refund program, which is also being carried out in other countries.

The Quick Wins proposals, which were presented by PSAC to the chief executive during a meeting in Malacañang last Thursday, are aimed at further boosting the country’s tourism industry, including improving airport infrastructure and operations, managing the national brand and image, as well as promoting tourism investments, among others.

PSAC officials also told Marcos that they are working on a mobile app called e-Travel, which integrates all of the information on immigration, customs, health and quarantine.

They said the app, which could be used within this month or in February, is being modified to allow groups or families to easily input data, adding the database will also include tourist destinations, transport and hotel information, as well as traffic condition.

Tourists can complete the form through the app before boarding or while onboard the plane as long as they have internet connection.

Marcos has been vocal about his push for digitalization in government which, he said, could allow tourists to easily fill out those forms while traveling and at the same time, enable authorities to ensure security at the borders.

The PSAC is composed of business leaders and industry experts providing technical advice to the President in achieving the government’s economic objectives in six key sectors — agriculture, digital infrastructure, healthcare, infrastructure, jobs generation and tourism.

A total of 2.65 million tourists visited the country from February to December last year, of which 2.02 million were foreign tourists while 628,445 Filipinos were overseas or balikbayans.

This figure is higher than the 2021 tourist arrivals of 163,879 but still significantly lower than the pre-pandemic level of 8.26 million.

This year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) targets to welcome 4.8 million visitors, which could generate PHP2.58 trillion in revenue.