House of Representatives

Probe sought after some retiree, investor visas found dubiously granted to Chinese individuals

Kaycee Valmonte

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Probe sought after some retiree, investor visas found dubiously granted to Chinese individuals

LOWER HOUSE. The House of Representatives opens its second regular session on Monday morning, July 24, 2023.

Dwight de Leon/Rappler

The House leadership also wants to investigate delayed birth registrations, after the case of suspended Bamban Mayor Alice Guo 'uncovered uncertainties and potential risks' in the process

MANILA, Philippines – Leaders at the House of Representatives want to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the country’s processes for granting special visas, on top of late birth registrations, as these are feared to be abused by foreigners for illegal activities.

On Tuesday, June 18, House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo filed House Resolution 1771, following instructions from House Speaker Martin Romualdez. Tulfo, citing data from the Bureau of Immigration, said the country granted about 78,000 special visas, and 30,000 of these were given to Chinese nationals, some of whom did not even qualify.

“What’s surprising is that they aren’t even supposed to be retired, but they were given visas. They are aged 35 to 50, so it’s a good thing that a couple of years ago, we adjusted the requirement to 50 years old, otherwise, it would have been abused,” Tulfo said in mixed English and Filipino.

“It’s the same case for investor’s visa. They aren’t even investing millions in the country, but they were granted an investor’s visa,” he added, saying that some are “mere employees” of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). This comes just as more lawmakers express worry that POGOs – where most Chinese nationals in the Philippines work – also bring with them criminal activity, such as human trafficking, kidnapping, and prostitution, among others.

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Special resident visas

Among the basic requirements for any of the country’s Special Resident Retirees Visas (SRRV) is that the principal applicant – foreign or former Filipino citizens – must be at least 50 years old. Spouses applying as dependents are required to be legally married to the principal applicant.

Children must be recognized as legitimate or legally adopted by the principal applicant or the retiree. They should also be unmarried and aged 21 or younger to qualify for an SRRV.

The SRRV is designed for those who want “to make the Philippines their second home or investment destination.” It is the Department of Tourism’s Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) in charge of the visa program.

Meanwhile, the Special Investor’s Resident Program (SIRV) is handled by the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments (BOI). The program requires applicants to invest at least $75,000 in the Philippines.

Tulfo plans to have the PRA, BOI, and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) summoned to the House of Representatives once the bill is assigned to a committee when Congress resumes sessions.

“We still have to find out if corruption is involved or if we have loose guidelines,” Tulfo said.

Back to Alice, POGOs

The case of Alice Guo, the suspended mayor of Bamban, Tarlac, opened a can of worms for the Philippine government – from her suspected link to POGOs to her dubious Filipino citizenship that allowed her to run for public office. Now, even the lower chamber wants to investigate how late registration for birth certificates works.

When asked if the House also wanted to summon Guo, Tulfo replied in the affirmative.

Kailangan natin malaman kung paano niya nagawa ‘yun kasi very… ‘yung kaniyang mga parents, di malaman kung sino [ang] mga parents, paano nangyari (We need to find out how she did it… her parents, we can’t even trace who her parents are, how did that happen?)”

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The opening of POGOs allowed for the influx of Chinese nationals into the country.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte saw it then as a means of getting foreign investments, but even the Chinese embassy now calls for the closure of POGO firms, which it had called a “social ill.”In February, the House Committee on Games and Amusement approved a measure seeking to ban and declare POGOs illegal, but it has yet to be brought to plenary. Tulfo plans to follow up on the matter with Romualdez. –

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Kaycee Valmonte

Kaycee Valmonte is a multimedia reporter who covers politics in the House of Representatives and public health.