“We believe that visa quotas should be lifted and people should visit anywhere they wish freely.” –Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
While visiting a mall in Brooklyn last Monday, Bombo Radyo-Iloilo anchor John Felco Talento interviewed me to get a reaction from Americans on the threat of “harsh retaliation” by Iran following the recent assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. I told him everything was normal as far as regular activities; despite the Department of Homeland Security raising alert levels, Americans are not bothered by the threat.
I explained, Americans outside the United States, particularly those in the Middle East are most exposed to danger and should be worried for their safety. Those within American territory feel the government is adequately prepared to protect the public from foreign invasion. However, the worries stem from possible violence from Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group, which may have sleeper cells within the country.
I affirmed, “We will remain alert and vigilant.”
Following the decision by the United States government to ban entry to Philippine government officials linked with the incarceration of embattled Senator Leila de Lima, the response by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte banned entry to the US senators that pushed for the bill—Dick Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont—and required American citizens to obtain a visa before entering the Philippines. He subsequently added Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts to the list.
In the event Duterte proceeds with his plans, 49-year-old Rommel Leal of Lambunao, Iloilo told me, “I have no problem with that.”
“It will most likely be an arrival visa,” she explained. “We can always pay for that visa upon our arrival and, ergo, we can be with our loved ones for a temporary visit.”
The New York City-based laborer is among the New York City-based Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) planning to visit Iloilo City for the Dinagyang Festival later this month.
“Leave the Fil-Ams alone and don’t make life difficult for us,” he appealed to the Philippine government. “We have nothing to do with its conflict with the US government.”
Leal said he was skeptical is Duterte was serious, especially if he realized the decision would affect millions of balikbayan Fil-Ams. He also believes the Philippine government would not spend additional funds and manpower to process travel visas and suspects the president may have been “carried by his emotions” when he issued the visa threat.
The Lambunao native said the ban has no effect since the three senators in question likely have no interest in visiting the Philippines; however, the visa requirement will have a serious effect on the Philippine economy, specifically, the tourism sector.
Leal flies to the Philippines at least three times a year.
Alex P. Vidal, who is based in New York City, used to be the editor for two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ