Koko wants probe on ‘escort service fees’ for Sino tourists

SENATOR Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the alleged “escort service” to excluded Chinese tourists by unscrupulous immigration officials for a P50,000 fee at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

In filing Senate Resolution No. 897, Pimentel said Chinese tourists were reported to have been excluded and disallowed entry to the Philippines without due process using Section 29 (a) (5) of Commonwealth Act 613, otherwise known as the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, referring to persons likely to become public charge.

“There were also reports that some Bureau of Immigration officers would give the “excluded Chinese tourists”’ a telephone number to call in case they intend to come back so that they could be escorted through immigration for a fee of $1,000 or Php 50,000 per tourist,” Pimentel said.

He said that Chinese tourists who allegedly avail of the escort services become undocumented aliens and allegedly receive fake Immigration cards that each costs from P20,000 to P30,000 and an additional cost of P200,000 to P300,000 to be delisted or removed from the Bureau’s blacklist.

“These allegations of extortion and corrupt practices are flagrant violations of Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act that merit serious attention,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel cited the letter of the Philippine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PCCCI) to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay dated December 08, 2011 where the business group conveyed their strong and genuine concern over the “indiscriminate and arbitrary exclusions of Chinese nationals in our international airports thereby creating issues and anxieties among Chinese nationals visiting our country as tourists and as investors.”

In a letter addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs dated 05 January 2012, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China also called the attention of the DFA to the numerous exclusions of Chinese nationals entering the Philippines and to other complaints against some immigration officials.

The PRC Embassy has recorded more than 200 exclusion cases involving Chinese nationals with valid visas in 2011, far more than those cases relating to the citizens of other countries, raising concerns for Chinese travellers who choose the Philippines as a tourist destination.

Of nearly four million tourists who visited the Philippines in 2011, Chinese tourists accounted for 243,137 arrivals in the country, representing 6.21 percent of the market share.

“There is an urgent need to investigate these serious allegations of violations of the law committed by some officers of the Bureau of Immigration and to propose legislative measures to curb if not totally rid the government of corruption,” Pimentel said.

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