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The Embassy of Greece is now processing the visa application of Filipinos going to Portugal under an agreement with the Philippine government, Manila’s envoy to Portugal said Thursday.
Portugal does not have an embassy in the Philippines since its closure in 2011, but maintains an honorary consulate in Cebu. The consulate does not process visa applications.
Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Philippe Lhuillier said Greece began accepting visa applications of Filipinos in November 2013.
“This arrangement will benefit Filipinos who want to travel to Portugal, especially overseas Filipinos workers who wish to bring over family members or relatives over to visit them during the holiday season,” Lhuillier told reporters during a briefing in Manila.
Most Filipinos who travel to Portugal are tourists, he said.
Before the new arrangement, Filipinos flying directly to Portugal apply for visas at Portugal’s embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia or at its consulate in Macau.
Portugal and Greece are members of the Schengen group of nations. Schengen states issue a visa that permits passport-free travel in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
With increasing potential for trade between the Philippines and Portugal, Lhuillier said he has been encouraging Portugal’s government to re-open its diplomatic mission in the country.
“If we have an embassy there, I don’t see a reason why they shouldn’t open an embassy here,” he said, adding he has been going around Portugal to promote the Philippines as the “the next premier investment hub in South East Asia.”
Compared to Manila’s other trading partners in Europe where economic exchange is more robust, bilateral trade between the two states stands at a mere $21 million in 2013,Lhuillier said.
To shore up investments and tourism, he said Cebu city and the Portuguese city of Sabrosa would soon sign a sister-cities agreement.
Apart from economic benefits, Lhuillier said a sister-city arrangement could also bolster cooperation on education and culture.
Cebu and Sabrosa have historical links, Lhuillier said.
Cebu is the site of the Battle of Mactan, where indigenous Filipinos led by Lapu-Lapu fought Spanish forces under the command of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan, who was born in Sabrosa, was killed in the battle in 1521.
A similar arrangement between Dumaguete City and Coimbra, home of Portugal’s oldest and most prestigious educational institution, the University of Coimbra, is also being arranged, the envoy said.
Portugal hosts around 3,000 Filipinos, mostly working in the service sector. — RSJ, GMA News