Press Release
November 29, 2020

Hontiveros to BI: Terminate Visa Upon Arrival scheme for Chinese nationals now

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Sunday called for the termination of the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) scheme for Chinese nationals, after the Philippine National Police reported that the VUA boosted kidnappings related to Chinese casino players and workers of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.

"Walang tigil ang krimen na dinadala ng POGO sa bansa. Napatotohanan na natin sa Senado na maraming Chinese POGO workers ang customers ng mga prostituted and trafficked women, at ngayon, kinukumpirma na ng PNP na POGO-related din ang mga kaso ng kidnapping. This is all no thanks to the VUA scheme," the senator said.

The PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group's (PNP-AKG) data recorded 24 incidents in 2017 and 2018, 35 in 2019, and two in 2020. Out of these incidents, PNP-AKG said that it has arrested 34 suspects of POGO-related kidnapping last year, and 31 this year.

PNP's data also showed that there was no casino-related kidnapping in 2016, a year before the VUA system started. In 2017, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) began the VUA scheme after former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Department Order No. 41, which allowed citizens of the People's Republic of China to enter the Philippines without having previously obtained a visa from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

"The VUA scheme is a dubious project. Our investigations already revealed that corrupt BI officials involved in the pastillas scam have also profited from the VUA system. Nakabulsa sila ng halos P2-bilyong kickback. Kahit anong bali-baliktad natin sa VUA, klaro na puro perwisyo lang ang dala nito sa ating bansa," Hontiveros said.

The senator added that amid optimistic reports of COVID-19 vaccine trials, our borders may again be open to foreign nationals.

"It will be safer for everyone, Chinese and Filipinos, if all Chinese visitors entering the country apply for visas through channels monitored by the DFA. Suspended pa lang ang VUA ngayon dahil sa COVID-19, pero dapat na itong i-terminate. Air travel may soon continue, but I strongly suggest that VUA does not," Hontiveros concluded.

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