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Number of Chinese immigrants in PHL doubled in 2010

Despite last year’s hostage tragedy that claimed the lives of eight Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, the number of mainland Chinese nationals who migrated to the Philippines more than doubled in 2010, according to the Bureau of Immigration. Immigration Alien Registration division assistant chief Ferdinand Arbas said the number of Chinese living in the country went up from 30,809 in 2009 to 61,372 in 2010. The Chinese have thus dislodged the Koreans as the top foreign citizens who choose the Philippines as their second home. The latter registering a slight increase from 24,876 in 2009 to 28,090 in 2010. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it has registered 90,413 foreign immigrants and 98,733 non-immigrants as of Jan. 1, 2011. The geographic and cultural proximity of China to the Philippines, and the fact that Filipino-Chinese communities are firmly established in the country, may account for the rise of Chinese immigrants here. Majority of the Chinese and Korean migrants are students, businessmen, and missionaries who prefer Metro Manila, with its high-rise condominiums and cheap apartments. A number of tourists have also expressed preference to studying English here where it is cheaper. Apart from the Chinese and Koreans, the other top foreign nationals who have decided to live in the country are Americans (24,909), Indians (23,317), Japanese (8,931), British (4,781), Taiwanese (3,640), Iranians (3,260), Germans (2,965), and Australians (2,645). According to the BI, the number of foreign migrants in the country grew 50-percent in the last three years, from 60,554 in 2007 to 90,413 in 2010. Arbas said the aggressive marketing approach by the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the innovative visa scheme by the BI, attracted more foreigners to come to the Philippines. He added that the number of Chinese, Korean, American, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists went up also because Filipinos speak English well and can communicate effectively in that language with foreigners. Meanwhile, Boracay, Bohol, Cebu and Palawan remain the top tourist destinations in the country. According to Arbas, apart from the short-term tourists who usually stay in the country for less than a week, some of them choose to live here permanently as they believe the Philippines offers good opportunities in trade and commerce. “Foreigners living here experience a high-quality standard of living for a very low cost, with loyal live-in maids and helpers, cheap taxis, and fine rental homes in quality neighborhoods," Arbas said. He added the country offers a wide range of entertainment, the nightlife, golf courses, international restaurants, and stunning resorts. Arbas explained that many European and Japanese investors are here on “expat packages" offered by their companies, allowing them to enter the Philippines on tourist visa and then extend their stay for longer periods. The bureau has stepped up efforts to encourage foreign visitors through such programs as the visa issuance made simple or VIMS), the pre-arranged visa upon arrival, and the special visa for employment generation or SVEG. These programs made it easier for foreigners to work or do their business in the country, said Arbas. — With Jerrie Abella/VS, GMANews.TV