PH Immigration 2020 revenue down by 36% due to pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   February 8, 2021   •   362

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday reported that the total revenue from immigration fees it collected dropped to P5.88 billion in 2020 as the country continues to struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said last year’s revenue is 36.1-percent lower than the record-high income of P9.3 billion posted in 2019.

“We anticipated our revenues to decrease due to the pandemic,” Morente said in a statement.

“With more foreign nationals going out of the country than going in, we were able to collect less revenue from visa applications,” he added.

Morente also said that transactions in the bureau were suspended for more than two months after the government started to impose quarantine restrictions in March 2020.

He, however, said the Bureau expects its revenue collection efforts to gradually return to normal this year as the country awaits the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine and once international travel restrictions are gradually lifted.

BI Finance Chief Judith Ferrera said the bureau was poised to post another record high income in 2020 if the pandemic did not occur.

Ferrera said the BI started the year on a very positive note as its collections in January and February amounted to P1.8 billion but revenues dropped to P480 million in March with the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon.

She bared that the BI sources the bulk of its revenues from visa processing and extension fees, fines and penalties, clearance and certification taxes, and immigration tax.

The Immigration earlier reported a 45-percent decrease in the number of tourist visa extensions last year following the imposition of travel restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic.

BI: Wanted Korean swindler nabbed in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A South Korean national wanted by authorities in Seoul for swindling and defrauding his compatriots has been arrested in the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Tuesday.

In a report to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, the bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit (FSU) identified the foreigner as Lee Beomseok, 42, who was arrested on Thursday in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Morente said he issued the mission order for Lee’s arrest at the request of the South Korean authorities in Manila following information that he is the subject of a criminal investigation for fraud in his country.

Lee is also the subject of an Interpol blue notice issued on March last year and he is already an undocumented alien due to the revocation of his passport by the Korean government, the BI chief added.

Citing its records, the BI said that sometime in September 2013, Lee received 25 million won, or equivalent to about US$22,000 from his first victim after persuading him to lend money for his alleged restaurant business.

The following year, Lee again reportedly enticed another victim to lend him a total of almost 280 million won, or roughly US$248,000, which the victim transferred to his bank account in several tranches.

The bureau said Lee is presently detained at the BI detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig pending issuance and implementation of the order for his deportation by the bureau’s board of commissioners.

“He will be placed on the immigration blacklist and banned from re-entering the Philippines,” Morente said.

DepEd urged to rollout ‘limited, very controlled’ pilot testing of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a pilot testing of face-to-face classes in areas with very few or zero COVID-19 cases to see how this will work.

Angara said that while he supports calls for the resumption of limited in-person classes, it would be best to conduct a dry-run in areas where physical distancing and other health protocols can be strictly observed.

“Gusto natin maibalik ang face-to-face classes pero be that as it may nagsalita na din si Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) na bastat walang bakuna ayaw niya mag upisa ng face-to-face classes nationwide,” Angara said in a statement on Sunday.

“Kung sakali, bago tayo mag umpisa ng nationwide rollout ng face-to-face classes, pumili tayo ng isa o dalawang probinsya muna para sa pilot testing,” Angara added.

The pilot areas should also have strong health systems that would be able to handle possible outbreaks in case of “super spreader” events.

“Kailangan ang lugar na yun ay walang masyadong kaso at handa ang kanyang health system kung sakaling magkaroon ng super spreader event,” he said.

Angara said the local government units that will be part of the pilot testing should ensure they have health facilities such as hospitals that are capable of handling a large number of cases–from isolation to treatment.

“Kung i-rollout ng DepEd itong face-to-face classes ay maingat at limitado talaga, under very controlled conditions muna,” Angara said.

Some senators have earlier pushed to reduce the number of schools participating in the dry-run.

Instead of 1,065 as initially proposed by the DepEd, lawmakers want the program be conducted in 500 or lower number of schools with smaller number of students.

The proposal aims to gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angara stressed that any plan to resume face-to-face learning should be done with extreme caution since the risk of contracting COVID-19 still exists in the country.

He believes that the resumption of limited in-person classes would ease off a lot of stress and pressure on both the students and their parents who have been forced to cope with blended learning due to the pandemic.

DepEd urged to form panel of experts on dry run of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to form a panel of experts that will guide the pilot tests of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said the panel of experts should look at the pilot testing program and resumption of in-person classes with a more specialized approach, considering the unique situations of each school.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na dahil nag-cancel ng face-to-face classes, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our learners,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

DepEd earlier said it is eyeing to conduct a dry-run of face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools but some senators proposed to reduce the number of schools to 500 or lower, with a smaller number of students.

Gatchalian said he has expressed support for this proposal to “gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Senate hearing last week, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) cited a global study of 191 countries which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates.

The PPS also said that one year of school closure is equivalent to two years’ loss on learning.

For the PPS, the effects of prolonged school closures on health and development—including learning losses, increased exposure to violence, sexual abuse, and early pregnancies—can be mitigated if the highest standards of safety measures are observed.

“The damage of school closures can be deeper and longer. During pre-COVID, our learners did not do well in international large-scale assessments and our national achievement scores were not doing great. And now, because of the lack of access to face-to-face education, internet, and gadgets, the learners are left on their own,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, citing an internal department survey which showed that more than 50% of students are in favor of attending physical classes.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission in February but it was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

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