'Damage to the country?' Senators alarmed over 27,000 Chinese retirees in PH

There are a total of 27,678 Chinese retirees in the Philippines, alarming senators who said it may have implications on the country's national security.

At the budget hearing of the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies, Senator Nancy Binay on Monday, October 19, questioned the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) about the age bracket of foreign retirees, as China topped the list.

Based on the PRA's list, there are a total of 70,520 foreign retirees in the Philippines. At least 39.25% or about 2 in every 5 foreign retirees are Chinese.

PRA General Manager Bienvenido Chy explained that foreigners aged 35 years old and above are eligible for the special resident retirees visa (SRRV). Chy was not able to say how many Chinese retirees there are per age bracket.

In response, Binay said that the probability of Chinese retirees working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) could be high given the wide age range.

"My concern GM is we have a lot of Chinese retirees. I don't know if you have the budget to monitor that they are not working in POGOs," said Binay.

But Chy merely downplayed the concern, saying that POGO workers are usually in their 20s, and those who are 35 years old "more or less choose the Philippines as their retirement destination."

Requirements

According to the PRA's website, those aged 35 to 49 years old must have at least $50,000 (P2.43 million) and should make an "active investment" such as a condominium purchase or a long-term house lease.

An SRRV allows a foreigner or a former Filipino indefinite stay with multiple entry privileges. Those granted with this visa are also eligible to work, study, and invest in the Philippines.

Senator Richard Gordon, who was presiding over the DOT budget hearing, said that the lax requirements, for him, are "dangerous." Gordon also called the policy of allowing 35-year-olds to retire in the Philippines "liberal."

"You better take a look at that. That's a national interest consideration there – national security," said Gordon.

"If you put $50,000 at the bank, that's fine. That's an honest-to-goodness retiree. But when everybody can pay $50,000…that's kind of cheap, isn't it?" asked Gordon.

'Damage to the country'

Chy, who kept dodging the questions on the policy by saying that he inherited it, said that he will take the matter up with the PRA's Board of Trustees.

Gordon, however, was not satisfied with Chy's answers.

"If I don't get any cogent answers, I will postpone this hearing. You have somebody in a very strategic position that doesn't know how to answer a question and is already doing, I think, damage to our country," Gordon said.

Gordon said that the retirement agency should look at improving other markets such as the US, Hong Kong, and Japan. The senator also said that the PRA should work with the Tourism Promotion Board (TPB) on the matter.

TPB chief operating officer Anthonette Velasco-Allones, who later took up Gordon's questions, told the senator that they will sit down with Chy to help the PRA revisit their programs.

What's the vision?

An angry Gordon told Chy: "You have a title and you have a desk. You think you're important? In fact, the way you answered here, you should be removed from your position. I'm sorry, it ticks me off."

Chy again reiterated that he will bring up the matter to the board to make amendments in the policy.

Gordon then said: "You're the chairman. The buck stops there.…If you have no vision as to what your job is, you are not able to lead it properly as a chairman of a very important [office]. You have to know who (retirees) you want to get in." – Rappler.com

$1 = P48.56

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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