Philippines: Deal Approved to Increase Flights to ASEAN
President Benigno Aquino III on February 3 signed agreements allowing Philippine carriers to fly unlimited flights to ASEAN member countries. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Civil Aeronautics Board will help Philippine carriers in getting additional flight schedules from each of the nine other ASEAN member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam. New flight schedules are expected to be operational within the next six months.
As a part of the agreement, Philippine airlines will now be allowed to fly beyond the capital cities of ASEAN member states. This is expected to boost tourism, enhance trade, and open investment opportunities for businesses looking to expand within the region. In addition, the agreement allows foreign carriers to increase flights to Manila and other cities within the Philippines. The agreement is part of the ASEAN Multilateral Agreement in Air Services (MAAS), which envisions an ASEAN Single Aviation Market allowing seamless regional connectivity.
Thailand: Stricter Punishment for Visa Overstays
The authorities, from March 20, will enforce stricter laws for foreigners overstaying on visas within the country. While relevant laws were introduced in August, 2015, authorities have stated that enforcement will be more rigorous from the aforementioned date. Details of the laws are as follows:
For foreigners that surrender to authorities:
- Overstay of more than 90 days: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 1 year
- Overstay of more than 1 year: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 3 years
- Overstay of more than 3 years: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 5 years
- Overstay of more than 5 years: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 10 years
If a foreigner is caught and arrested by the authorities:
- Overstay of less than 1 year: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 5 years
- Overstay of more than 1 year: Banned from re-entering Thailand for 10 years.
The banned period begins from the departure date. Previously, the fine for overstaying ranged from US $15 to US $560. The move comes as authorities say that several overstaying foreigners have been involved in crimes. Foreign travelers should familiarize themselves with the new rules to mitigate any inconvenience.
Malaysia: New Hotel Licenses Banned in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has imposed an indefinite ban on new hotel licenses, citing oversupply. The ruling applies to all accommodation from five-star hotels to budget establishments, but will not affect hotels that have already received permission for the construction of buildings. At present, there are around 939 hotels and more than 400 budget hotels. In the last six months, only two hotels and five budget properties were approved. Officials have stated that the existing number of hotels are sufficient to meet the demand of the 12 million international tourists expected in the city this year.
However, other groups, including budget hotel players, have opposed the idea. They have stated that with a significant increase of tourism expected by 2020, permitting in 2016 provides the necessary lead time of three years required to build a hotel. Analysts further stated that the government should examine each project on a case-by-case basis rather than a total ban.
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