BI to deport alleged ex-Yakuza member wanted for fraud in Japan

Robie de Guzman   •   October 7, 2019   •   796

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is set to deport a Japanese national, allegedly a former member of the Yakuza crime syndicate, who is wanted by the authorities for fraud.

The BI on Monday said its Fugitive Search Unit arrested 71-year old Katsumi Ohno in an operation conducted last Sept. 30 on Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.

Arresting agents nabbed Ohno on the strength of a warrant of deportation order issued by the BI Board of Commissioners last June 20.

The BI said the Japanese Embassy sought for the suspect’s deportation last February following information that Ohno is facing a standing arrest warrant for fraud issued by a Japanese court.

The bureau also learned that the suspects’ passport had expired last November 2018, making him an undocumented alien.

Investigation revealed that Ohno arrived in the Philippines as a tourist in 2011 and has been hiding here since.

Ohno is currently detained at the BI jail in Bicutan, Taguig City.

He has also been included in the immigration blacklist to prevent him from returning to the Philippines.

Immigration employees showing COVID-19 symptoms to get free swab tests

Robie de Guzman   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Employees exhibiting novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be provided with free RT-PCR tests, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Monday.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the effort is to ensure the health and safety of the bureau’s personnel.

“Being frontliners, BI personnel are one of the most at risk as we are in close contact with numerous people every day in the performance of our duties,” he said.

BI Deputy Commissioner Aldwin Alegre, who chairs the BI COVID Task Force, said the swab testing will be conducted through the help of partner agencies.

“We have received allocation for swab kits from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Local Government Unit of Manila,” Alegre said.

“We are very thankful for their support, and this will go a long way in our fight against Covid,” he added.

Alegre said priority will be given to symptomatic employees, as well as those who came in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Testing for BI employees will be conducted at the Palacio de Maynila, Manila Health Office, and Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros.

BI to ease departure travel restrictions starting October 21

Marje Pelayo   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has announced that it will be implementing eased departure restrictions for Filipino citizens following the resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases. 

“Starting October 21, the BI will be allowing the departure of Filipinos with non-essential travel,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said.

“Outbound tourism is now allowed for Filipinos, subject to compliance with protocols set by the IATF,” he added.

Initially, only foreign nationals, overseas Filipino workers, permanent visa holders, students enrolled abroad, participants accepted in exchange visitor programs, as well as those who had essential travel, were allowed to depart.

Recently, the IATF through Resolution no. 79 further relaxed restrictions now including non-essential travels.

However, the IATF requires outbound Filipino tourists to present a round trip ticket, health and travel insurance, and a negative antigen result at least 24 hours before departure. 

Also, according to the ruling, if the country of destination requires an RT-PCR test, then the same must be presented instead.

Departing Filipinos shall also be required to sign a declaration acknowledging the risks of their travel, to be provided by airline check-in counters. 

Commissioner Morente stressed that after the said process, passengers will still undergo regular immigration assessment.

He clarified, however, that inbound restrictions are still in place. 

“We are on standby for any changes in policy, as directed by the IATF and the President,” he stated.

Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country holding tourist visas. 

Restrictions allow foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, the foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and the foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs to enter the country.

Those who are eligible to enter are required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to their arrival.

Apart from said categories, accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are also allowed.

PH Immigration expects low arrivals from abroad as pandemic rages

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A significantly lower passenger arrivals from abroad are expected this year as international travel remains restricted due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Wednesday.

The BI said that from January to September this year, only 3.5 million passengers arrived in the country, in contrast to the almost 13 million that arrived in the same period last year.

“If you look at the figures, it starts with a strong 1.7 million arrival in January, then drops to less than 500,000 in March, and slumps to a mere 25,000 in April,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

“We used to see a spike in figures during holidays, like during the holy week, all souls day, and Christmas, but we’ve seen very low numbers this year,” he added.

In 2019, the BI recorded more than 16 million arrivals the entire year, which was higher than the 15.1 million recorded in 2018.

The bureau said the sharp drop in numbers can be attributed to the spread of COVID-19, which prompted the Philippines, as well as other countries to impose travel restrictions.

It also cited a May 2020 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which states that travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors of COVID-19 crisis, and projections show a decline of 58% to 78% in international tourist arrivals worldwide for this year.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, international travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Hence, the Philippine government imposed travel restrictions to slow down the spread of the virus.

The BI said that as early as January, before the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the issuance of the Visa Upon Arrival facility has been suspended which slowed down the arrival of Chinese tour groups.

In February, the national government issued a travel ban on foreigners coming from China and its special administrative regions, which was eventually expanded to include all foreign tourists.

Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country holding tourist visas.

Foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs are also allowed to enter the country.

Those who are eligible to enter are required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to their arrival.

Apart from said categories, accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are also allowed.

“We are optimistic and expect the numbers to pick up in 2021, hopefully when we see an end to this pandemic,” Morente said.

The BI chief said his statement is aligned with UNWTO’s projection that international travel may start recovering next year.

“We are ready to implement any changes in the travel restrictions imposed by the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” said Morente. “We trust their wisdom, and our men are on standby to serve international travelers in our airports and seaports,” he added.

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