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Investment Climate Improvement Project www.arangkadaphilippines.com • www.investphilippines.info

HIGHLIGHTS August 17, 2011

JFC Meeting with Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David

Attendees of the JFC-BI Meeting with Commissioner David

The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) met with Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David on August 17 at his office in Intramuros, Manila. A copy of the Arangkada Philippines 2010 advocacy paper was given to the commissioner at the meeting. JFC representatives include AmCham-ICIP Senior Advisor John Forbes, CanCham Executive Director Sean Georget, ECCP Retirement and Healthcare Coalition Executive Director Marc Daubenbeuchel, KCCP President Edward Chang, EDC and NCC WG on Infrastructure Representative Twinkle Rodolfo, Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) Chairman Felix Cruz, and BAR Representative Atty. Jackyln ArellanoTan. The commissioner was joined by senior officials from the Bureau. Principal Author and ICIP SA Forbes explained the background and rationale behind the advocacy paper. He also informed the group about the newly launched Arangkada website, www.arangkadaphilippines.com, as a global forum for investors interested in the Philippines. 1


Customs, Immigration, Quarantine Overtime Charges. On Immigration overtime charges, BAR Chairman Cruz argued that government should shoulder overtime charges because BI officers are government employees and they are servicing passengers not airlines. The country is becoming less competitive since this particular fee is not being levied by other countries. He said, “the President’s EO on Open Skies will be a hollow promise if it does not complement with necessary changes.” Too many airlines have already left the country while the remaining ones are not doing well. Ms. Rodolfo emphasized that the private sector is not against the charging of overtime per se. What the private sector supports is the deployment of adequate Bureau of Immigration personnel who will be able to provide 24/7 services. This will effectively reduce the overtime work and therefore the practice of charging overtime to the private sector. If the problem is shortage of personnel (total strength nationwide is only 1,100) then the private sector can support an advocacy for budget allocation for the hiring of more personnel. Any work in excess of the 8-hour workday should be properly compensated by the government. Both public and private sector should support the growth of the tourism business. If BI would share necessary data on how to modernize immigration, the private sector is willing to support and lobby this. Mr. Forbes cited the need for BI to be exempt from civil service salary standardization. According to Comm. David, the two main concerns of the Bureau are low salaries and shortage of personnel. The basic pay of a BI officer is about PhP 14,000. He argued that by removing the overtime pay without increasing the salaries, there is a likelihood that corruption will be entertained and services will suffer. BI’s position is that Comm. David will fight for the employees overtime pay unless there is a solution to financing salary increase from other sources. It was also mentioned by the Commissioner that all fees collected by the bureau goes directly of the national government. On July 15, CAO-7 was approved declaring a 24/7 operations for Customs officers in certain divisions in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other International Airports of entry. Stated also in the CAO, Customs officers are entitled to payment of night differential. A copy was provided to Commissioner David. Possible Implementation of Long Stay Visa. (ECCP). Mr. Daubenbuechel discussed the proposition of the Retirement and Health Coalition of having a Long Stay Visitor Visa in the Philippines. This visa entitles the visa holder to stay not longer than 182 days in a calendar year in the Philippines with multiple exit and re-entry possibilities based on a valid ACRi Card. The visa will approximately cost PhP 11,500 in consideration of the prevailing fees for visa extension. This recommendation will be discussed further with the office of Associate Commissioner Mison. Visa on arrival. BI and the Department of Tourism are currently discussing the prospect of implementing visa upon arrival for tourists and airline passengers who have flights passing through the Philippines. Mr. Cruz mentioned that the PAL flights to India might be reduced from 6 times to 5 times per week due to poor load factors. It is difficult for Indians to secure visas to the Philippines compared to other countries where the Indians are very welcome. He also mentioned that the Indian nationals in transit from India to Japan via the Philippines usually spend about 10 hours in transit time in the airport. If only visa upon arrival can be granted, these Indian nationals 2


can actually spend time as visitors in Resorts World or in shopping places in Manila. Citing President Aquino’s goal of doubling foreign tourist arrivals - Commissioner David fully supports this initiative yet stated two concerns: 1) the inability of the Bureau to properly monitor foreigners coming in, and 2) the issue on human trafficking. The commissioner is requesting assistance in creating a process by which they can effectively monitor tourists and aliens. BI Official Spokesperson and Acting Chief Atty. Bucasas-Mangrobang explained that policies on visas for Indians and Chinese rest with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). She suggested that we consult with Undersecretary Rodriguez of DFA. BI E-governance. Mr. Forbes discussed the need to develop an e-governance system. He cited Vietnam as an example which DOT Secretary Lim reported to AmCham now allows visa applications online. Commissioner David acknowledged that this is a necessity. However, BI needs 1 Billion Pesos to modernize its computer system nationwide. Acceptance of foreign currency and credit cards at airports. BI can only accept pesos and cash at the moment but recognizes the importance of accepting other currencies and credit cards to speed up transactions. It was explained that the issue should be raised to the Commission on Audit (COA). A meeting with concerned COA official will be setup to explore possible solution to the issue. Integrity Initiative. An Intergity Initiative kit will be given to the Commissioner to further familiarize him with the initiative. Dress code. At the Bureau of Immigration main office, a new dress code is being followed. No person who is dressed inappropriately (wearing sando, shorts, and slippers) will be allowed to enter the bureau premises. The Commissioner ordered a dress code to promote professionalism within the Bureau and to show “respect”. Mr. Forbes questioned this and said what if a foreigner has only slippers in his suitcase. Will he be turned away? The Commissioner said, in satellite offices e.g in Boracay BI allows slippers and sandos. Special Visa for Employment Generation Visa. KCCP President Chang raised the suspension of the SVEG on July 15. It was explained that the suspension was caused by deficiencies in the IRRs but would be reinstated before the end of August. Next Steps:  Meet with COA to discuss the acceptance of foreign currency and credit cards at airports.  Consult with DFA Undersecretary Rodriguez to discuss visa on arrival of Indian and Chinese nationals.  Share with the NCC National IT Governance Framework WG the discussion on egovernance.  Meet with DOJ Secretary de Lima re larger staff and larger budget for BI.  Meet with BI Associate Commissioner Mison re long-term visa.

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