JUST when we thought the cash-strapped Philippines was about to strangle the goose that lays the golden egg, it has backed down - though not without egg dripping down its face. The Philippine Consulate here had informed airlines that from the beginning of March all Hong Kong British National Overseas and British Dependent Territory Citizen passport holders would have to pay $200 for a visa if they desired to taste the beauty ofthe Philippines. But Hong Kong travellers responded with their feet - opting to go to other locations in the region that don't require visas for short-term travel. As a result, travel agents reported a drop in interest in our neighbour's tropical charms a short hop across the South China Sea - something the Philippines can't afford since tourism is a major dollar earner. With stark reality hitting home, the visa requirement has been hurriedly dropped, with a Philippine Consulate official mumbling: ''There must have been some mistake.'' But what we want to know is whether the several hundred people who paid $200 for a visa they now won't need will be reimbursed. So over to you, Consul-General Ofelia Castano.