By Macon Araneta

Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the termination of the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) for Chinese nationals, after the Philippine National Police cited VUA in the kidnappings related to Chinese casino players and workers of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.

“There is no (stopping) the crimes being brought by POGO. We have proven in the Senate many Chinese POGO workers are customers of prostituted and trafficked women, and now, the PNP confirmed kidnapping cases are also POGO-related. This is all no thanks to the VUA,” 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  VUA  after former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Department Order number 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). 

“ VUA 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 PHP2-billion 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. The  VUA was just temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 but this should be terminated. Air travel may soon continue but I strongly suggest that VUA does not,” Hontiveros also said.