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Government suspends visa issuance to young ‘retirees’

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 10/23/2020 Ghio Ong
a person holding a sign: Government suspends visa issuance to young ‘retirees’ © The STAR/Miguel De Guzman, File Government suspends visa issuance to young ‘retirees’

MANILA, Philippines  — The Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), an agency attached to the Department of Tourism (DOT), has suspended the issuance and processing of Special Retirees Residence Visa (SRRV) as it works to review and amend its policies on age and visa deposit requirements.

PRA general manager Bienvenido Chy said the suspension was among the directives the board of trustees issued during yesterday’s special meeting.

“Pending the ongoing review of the SRRV program and the authority’s compliance with the directives set forth by the Philippine Retirement Authority’s Board of Trustees (BOT) during the board meeting held on 23 October 2020, the public is hereby advised that the acceptance and processing of applications for new SRRV at the PRA Head office and all satellite offices is suspended beginning 23 October 2020 until further notice,” the PRA advisory reads.

SRRV is a special non-immigrant visa for foreign nationals who would like to make the Philippines their second home or investment destination.

Under the current policy of PRA, SRRV applicants have to be at least 35 years old. This policy has been in place since 1993, when the minimum age requirement was revised from 50 years to 35.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who serves as PRA board chairperson, also directed the PRA to implement an enhanced program to regularly monitor the profile and activities of active SRRV holders in coordination with other government agencies, such as the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Department of Justice and the Department of Labor and Employment.

In addition, the PRA was instructed to coordinate with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) for the formulation and review of PRA’s marketing and product development plans, and the benchmarking of its retirement program with other countries.

The PRA Board, which also has the BI and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as members, will convene on Nov. 6 for urgent policy reforms that include a reassessment of the age requirement policies.

This was after senators raised concerns on job sufficiency and national security during a recent senate hearing.

Sen. Nancy Binay earlier urged for the review of PRA policies as well as the monitoring of the relatively young foreign retirees staying in the country to find if they are competing for local jobs or pose risks to national security.

“It’s high time to review the policy that at 35 years old, you can already retire in the Philippines just by depositing $50,000 (about P2.5 million) in a bank or buy a condominium unit worth P2.5 million,” Binay said.

During the hearing, Senate finance subcommittee chairman Richard Gordon raised alarm on the number of Chinese PRA member-retirees that are as young as 35 years old. He called the policy dangerous and emphasized its implications on national security.

In an earlier phone interview, Chy told The STAR that the policy is not exclusive to the Chinese but also applies to all foreign nationals applying for the SRRV.

Sen. Joel Villanueva also called out the policy, stressing that given their age, these Chinese nationals could still be working in the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) sector.

As of end-2019, data from the PRA showed there were 26,969 Chinese nationals enrolled with the PRA. They are all SRRV holders, including principal retirees as well as their spouses and dependents.

However, in terms of principal retirees, there are a total of 10,813 Chinese retirees. The bulk of this figure or 8,130 are in the 35- to 49-year-old age bracket.

Chy said he acknowledges the concern raised by the senators on national security, but stressed that the PRA is very careful in accepting foreign retirees.

“What we’re doing with the Chinese and other nationalities that avail of our program is that we require them to secure a police clearance from their country of origin,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.

He emphasized that the PRA also double-checks these applications with the International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol.

Among PRA’s other top enrollee nationalities are Koreans at 13,912; followed by Indians at 5,971; Taiwanese at 4,801 and Japanese at 3,950.

The rest include Americans, Hong Kongers, British, Germans and Australians.

The PRA is an attached agency of the DOT, mandated to develop and promote the Philippines as a retirement haven as a means of accelerating the social and economic development of the country. It was established in 1985.

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