"Is someone making money from the issuance of special visas to foreigners?"
Earlier this week, the Senate conducted a hearing regarding the growing number of Chinese who have gained employment here in the country.
In the hearing, it was bared that the Department of Labor and Employment has issued close to 52,000 alien employment permits for Chinese workers—a figure which Senator Joel Villanueva says might be an understatement. He claims Chinese now almost dwarf Filipinos in terms of number in business districts like Makati City or the Bay Area in Pasay City.
Intriguingly, aside from the 52,000 AEPs the DOLE issued to Chinese workers, the Bureau of Immigration also admitted to having issued special employment visas to 119,000 foreigners in 2018. Most of them were granted to Chinese seeking employment in the Philippines. And it is apart from the 9G visa and Temporary Visa—Visa Upon Arrival the BI has issued to foreigners. While no figures were made available for this year, independent sources reval that BI issued 28,000 9G visas and 10,000 TV-VUA to Chinese visitors in 2017.
This was immediately contested by Villanueva saying BI is not the appropriate agency to assess whether foreigners can be employed in the Philippines. Thus, it should not have any authority to issue such kind of visas.
It was also bared in the same hearing that most of the special visas granted to Chinese workers were issued in relation to their employement with “Pagcor-licensed” Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.
With this revelation, some sectors were quick to howl their protest claiming the Chinese were stealing jobs away from the Filipinos. However, this could not be entirely true as according to sources within the POGO industry, the jobs are hardly meant for the Filipinos as the Number One requirement is the ability to speak Mandarin.
While that matter could still be up for debate as POGO and its service providers may actually utilize non-Mandarin speaking workers, the Senate could be following up a wrong lead if it insists on the supposed jobs the Filipinos lost to Chinese workers. The real issue here is corruption.
In its website, Pagcor lists a total of 57 accredited POGO, all of which are allowed to have 10 service providers each. These service providers include (a) Customer Relations Service Provider; (b) Strategic Support Provider; (c) IT Support Provider; (d) Gaming Software Platform Provider; (e) Live Studio and Streaming Provider; and, (f) Special Class of BPO.
So, if there are 57 accredited POGO, we would have a maximum of 570 service providers or a total of 627online gaming-related companies. And assuming each employs a maximum of 50 Chinese workers each (which I cannot comprehend as I cannot imagine an IT-support company employing 50 personnel), we would only come up with 31,350 workers at most.
Now, what is DOLE doing with 52,000 AEPs, and the BI with almost 150,000 special visas, most of which issued to Chinese working in online gaming companies?
It seems someone is making money here and that the online gaming appears to be only serving as front for some illegal activities.
According to sources, certain BI personnel could be behind this illegal money-making scheme.
The same sources point to the BI sateliite office in SM Aura in BGC as center of illegal transaction. Sources estimate that in 2017, those behind the illegal act could have netted more than P150 million and the amount could have easily quadripled this year.
Accordingly, corrupt BI officials might be operating in cahoots with some corrupt partners in Pagcor to facilitate the release of the needed documentary requirements.
While the sources would not name names, they suggest revamping the entire SM Aura satellite office of the BI starting with two detailed Philippine National Police officers, one Lt. Col. Jesselito L. Castro, and one Lt. Col. Alex G. Recinto, who both assumed office July 1, 2016 and were designated Executive Assistant II.
“They have been with the BI for two years now, what are they still doing there?” the sources asked.
“And those are plantilla positions they are holding at the BI. Does that mean they are also receiving compensation from the BI. Doesn’t that constitute double compensation?”
The sources added that both Castro and Recinto, aside from being high-ranking PNP officers, are lawyers, making them over-qualified for the position of Executive Assistant. This makes their continued stay at the BI more puzzling.
“There are allegations of corruption over the issuance of special visas to Chinese and transactions for these things reportedly takes place at the BI office in SM Aura and if it is, then it is happening right under the noses of these two-ranking PNP officers. Just what are they doing there?” the sources said.
“Maybe they should just go back to their mother unit and help their colleagues in their anti-illegal drug campaign. Maybe they would be more effective there,” they added.
And maybe they are right. But for the meantime, maybe the Senate could shift the focus of its investigation from the supposed jobs the Chinese are stealing away from us to the real issue—which is the corruption behind the issuance of special visas.