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Prisoner swap tackled during Rody-Xi talks

BEIJING – President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have discussed a possible prisoner swap between Filipinos and Chinese arrested for drug offenses.

“One of the problems we have here that has accumulated through the years is the number of Filipinos who have been detained because of being drug mules or for carrying illegal drugs,” Ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana said yesterday.

During the bilateral talks between Duterte and Xi, the ambassador said one of the issues discussed was a possible agreement on sentenced persons “because there are also Chinese who are serving in the Philippines.”

Sta. Romana said the justice department is the lead agency on this, supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“It’s still under discussion,” he said, adding that this is an issue that the two governments are considering right now.

“It’s been an issue for quite some time and they reviewed it and they want to continue making progress.”

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Sta. Romana said most of the arrested Filipino drug mules were apprehended upon entering China from a third country, and not from the Philippines.

There are two Filipinas on death row but there are no imminent signs that they will be executed.

Sta. Romana said the embassy has hired lawyers to appeal their cases.

Visa applications

The Philippine embassy in Beijing has reported a 200-percent increase in visa applications for tourism and business to the Philippines.

Sta. Romana said there was a big decline in Chinese tourism “before we resolved the underlying issues in the South China Sea.”

On recommendation from their central government, Chinese travel agencies started booking tours to the Philippines, following the shift in Duterte’s foreign policy aligning with Beijing.

“China basically constitutes a big demand of visas because of tourism and business travel,” Sta. Romana said, adding the Philippine government aims to double tourism arrivals this year.

“We will hit one million arrivals this year. We are just scratching the surface here,” he said.

Consulates all over China are deluged with visa applications, requiring the embassy to tap more employees.

Records showed there was a total of 675,663 arrivals from January to December last year, which represents a growth of 37.65 percent compared to 2015.

For January to February this year, the Philippines recorded a 25.42 percent increase in the number of tourist arrivals compared to the same period last year.

Prisoner swap tackled during Rody-Xi talks Prisoner swap tackled during Rody-Xi talks Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 1:20:00 AM Rating: 5

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