MANILA — The Bureau of Immigration over the weekend announced that it has recorded a 17-percent increase in tourist arrivals during the first 10 months of the year, despite the issuance of travel advisories from several countries warning their citizens against visiting the Philippines because of alleged terrorist threats.
According to Immigration Officer In Charge Ronaldo Ledesma, as of November 8, a total of 2,562,505 foreigners visited the country compared to the 2,190,114 who arrived during the same period in 2009.

The Immigration chief pointed out that the country is on track to hit its target of registering at least 3 million visitors in 2010.

He explained that tourist arrivals traditionally spike during the last two months of the year when winter envelopes the northern hemisphere--prompting people from there to flock to tropical countries to escape the cold.

"This is a positive sign that despite the negative travel advisories, we are succeeding in our efforts to promote the Philippines as a prime tourist and investment destination," Ledesma said.

He said that the increase in tourist arrivals also showed "the confidence of the international community in the government of President [Benigno] Aquino 3rd] is as strong as ever."

Ledesma said that the Immigration bureau would continue to pursue programs to make it easier for foreign tourists and businessmen to enter and do business in the country.

He underscored the bureau's important role of in the government's tourism efforts since immigration officers are usually the first Filipinos that foreigners encounter when they enter the country.

"We will continue to train our immigration officers so they will become true models of our vaunted Filipino traits of hospitality, courtesy and friendliness," Ledesma added.

He said that the spate of negative travel advisories by foreign governments urging their citizens to avoid the Philippines hardly dented tourist arrivals.

For October, tourist arrivals stood at 239,465, up by almost 19,000 compared to the 220,572 registered visitors in September.

The Americans still topped the list of foreigners who visited the country from January to October with 679,406; the Koreans followed with 525,564; and Japanese 331,156.

Other top 10 nationalities frequently visiting the Philippines are the Chinese, 229,989; Australians, 140,238; Canadians, 116,175; British, 113,041; Taiwanese, 99,465; Malaysians, 70,107; and Singaporeans, 66,336.

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