BI intercepts 13 holders of fake airline tickets bound for HK
Marje Pelayo • July 16, 2019 • 1095
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has warned the public to be wary of scammers following the arrest of 13 Filipino passengers bound for Hong Kong caught in possession of fake airline tickets at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said the passengers were intercepted last Monday (July 8) at the airline counter of Cathay Pacific at the NAIA 3 terminal.
According to the BI, the passengers were scammed and only found out about it at the airport after the attending airline personnel discovered that their tickets were not encoded in their system.
“It seems that they are victims of a scammers who prey on the public by selling fake tickets at cheap prices to entice their victims,” Medina said.
According to the initial investigation by the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU), the passengers pointed at one of their woman companions as the person who enticed them to buy the plane tickets.
The woman, however, said she was not aware that the tickets were bogus.
She also couldn’t present credentials of the person who offered her the bogus tickets whom she knew only by the name ‘Jennifer’.
BI TCEU Chief Timotea Barizo confirmed also that their hotel bookings were cancelled as well.
“They were also allegedly told to wear T-shirts bearing the name of a herbal product during their trip and were instructed to take off the shirts after they are cleared by Immigration,” said Barizo.
“It was done to make it seem like they were on an official company trip abroad. Why would they be instructed to misrepresent themselves if there was no ill intention?” she added.
Barizo suspects that they have been victimized by illegal recruiters who promised jobs abroad.
All 13 passengers were eventually turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance and further investigation.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is already reviewing if the visa-upon-arrival (VUA) policy should be abolished or amended, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it is possible for the system to be abolished since it can be abused.
Guevarra said those who avail the VUA can convert their visa into a special work permit visa.
“Kailangan ng (You need) more adequate monitoring and essentially intelligence work by the BI to prevent those situations [where] the visa upon arrival, which is supposed to be for tourism purposes [is used] for some other purpose,” he said.
However, he added that if the VUA system will be scrapped, there will be an immediate impact especially on the tourism sector.
“There is always that possibility. Ang concern lang naman namin diyan (Our concern here) are two things: one, that scheme was developed to encourage tourists from China so [the] immediate impact, if we abolish it will be on the tourism side,” he said.
Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said the BI has already begun their review last month.
Perete said the BI has already found loopholes in the said system including the three-month validity of the visa and an extension for another three-months.
The VUA is available to Chinese tourists. Other nationalities may also avail the VUA if:
1) Foreign investors/businessmen endorsed by the BOI, PRA, PCCI and other chambers;
2) Athletes and delegates to sports competitions;
3) Delegates/participants to international conventions;
4) Foreign investors / executives in investments endorsed by the gov’t; and 5) officials of the WB, ADB and other dev’t partners.
The Malacañang as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have previously announced their support to abolish the VUA.—AAC (with reports from Mai Bermudez)
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) reminds foreigners to refrain from joining any political activity as they are not allowed under Philippine law.
On its Facebook page, the BI warned legal aliens that they may face deportation if they do so as political protests are expected during the fourth state of the nation address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (July 22).
“We are sending this warning to avoid a repeat of the cases wherein we had to deport foreign protesters,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said following incidents of deportation of foreign nationals who took part previous mass actions.
The BI Chief said foreigners who are visitors in the Philippines are not given political rights and privileges of Filipino citizens.
“Follow our laws. It is very simple and clear. Foreign visitors are not allowed to partake in political demonstrations. We allowed your stay in the Philippines, please respect our government and our laws,” he added.
Several foreign nationals have been deported for joining and supporting political events in the past.
The most prominent was Australian nun Patricia Fox who, in 2018, was denied renewal of missionary visa for violating the conditions of her stay and participating in partisan politics.
“If found guilty, we will blacklist these foreigners, effectively barring them from re-entering the Philippines,” Morente warned.
The Department of Finance (DOF) has created an inter-agency task force with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in intensifying the imposition of taxes on foreign workers in the country.
DOF Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino noted the increasing number of foreign workers in the country who do not pay taxes.
“It’s not fair to the Filipino worker who is paying taxes regularly when we have foreign nationals working here and not paying taxes. Because they use the same roads. Nakikinabang naman sila sa mga ilaw sa gabi, sa ating mga kalsada, kung anu-ano pang services na meron [They benefit from the electricity, from our roads, and from other services we have],” Lambino said.
The DOF official also said the country can earn 32 billion pesos every year from the tax that can be collected from 138,000 foreign workers in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) industry.
A data from DOLE shows that 84% of employees of the 182 POGOs that are registered in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) are foreign nationals, most of which are Chinese.
This prompted the task force to come up with a joint memorandum circular which states that the DOLE will not release an alien employment permit to a foreign national who has no tax identification number issued by the BIR.
The DOLE and the BIR will also come up with a database that will set a solid data on the total number of foreign workers in the country and to have a strict monitoring in the taxation of these workers.
The BIR has also issued notices to other POGO providers to remind them to pay taxes that have now reached P4-Billion. (with reports from Harlene Delgado) /mbmf
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