Visa-free entry for foreign golfers in Subic
SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Subic’s golf tourism program, which drew thousands of Korean golfers last year, is expected to get a big boost with the visa-free entry privilege being granted by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to foreigners visiting the free port.
The visa-free privilege would also help increase arrival figures at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), said Benjamin John Defensor III, president and chief executive officer of Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc., the operator of the Subic golf course.
“Coupled with our golf-junket tours, this will revive the Subic airport,” Defensor said. The visa-free privilege granted to foreigners visiting the country through international airports at Subic and the neighboring Clark Free Port.
BI Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator Armand Arreza and Clark Development Corp. president Benigno Ricafort signed the agreement that allows officers and personnel of foreign companies in the two free ports to enter and stay in the country for 14 days without visa.
Subic, which hosts a large number of Korean companies, is being marketed as a golfing haven to Korean executives under Hanafil’s three-day golf-junket tours. The SBIA lost income after the transfer of the FedEx Asia One hub from Subic to Guangzhou, China, in January 2009.
“We shall be using the SBIA and a partner airline company with low-cost fares to bring in more golfers from other countries,” Defensor said, noting that the Subic golf course is designed to handle 180 golfers a day.
“That number will get even bigger once we add nine more holes in the next phase of our development program,” Defensor also said.
Hanafil, a joint venture between Hana Tour, South Korea’s biggest tour company, and some Filipino partners, is now currently redeveloping the Subic golf course into an all-weather championship facility.
Defensor said the firm has completed about 40 percent of the reconstruction work, including the reshaping of the greens and fairways of the first nine holes.
Other improvements include an eco-friendly irrigation system that uses recycled water, a grass nursery that can use salt water, and a new drainage system that would better handle the volume of rainfall during the wet season.
Defensor said Hanafil has already spent almost $5 million for the reconstruction of the golf facility. The firm will also build guest houses and villas within the complex.
Defensor clarified that Hanafil’s renovations program is not just for the benefit of foreigners or new members, adding that the company also accommodates all previous members of the Subic golf club as long as they update their accounts.
He added that an increase in golf club membership rates may be effected in December this year, when the renovated golf course opens. Written by Henry Empeño /businessmirror.com.ph Correspondent