My dictionary defines folio as “a sheet of paper folded once to form two leaves (four pages) of a book.” And, so, this corner is an imaginary sheet of paper folded once to form two leaves. One will focus on the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the other on the Bureau of Customs (BOC). These two agencies are tasked with keeping order in the country’s borders. BI is concerned with migration of people, while BOC is involved in international trade—importation and exportation of commodities, products, or goods.
For the uninitiated, customs, immigration, and quarantine, are huge security concerns at the country’s borders for which an inter-agency Boarding Party (BP)—a team of government agents—was constituted. This BP is collectively known as the CIQ. This team is the first to board any foreign vessel, including aircraft, but excluding those owned by foreign military equals. Without CIQ’s green light, no international conveyances may unload imported cargoes, or disembark passengers into the Philippine territories.
And since these two agencies are covering our ports of entry, this column will thus roll on under the name and style of PORT FOLIO. It will allocate one of its leaves to migration issues of the BI, and the other leaf to international trade facilitation matters handled by the BOC. Goods importation and people’s migration will be the twin foci of PORT FOLIO, especially subjects with national security implications.
This foray of an amateur into the pages of The OpinYon was encouraged by Ray Junia, the paper’s publisher.
And, so, people first, before cargoes.
POGO, or the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations, is today’s buzzword not just in the gaming industry, but in Congress and law enforcement circles as well. Of late, the Justice department was said to have figured out some 40,000 overstaying aliens in the country. This figure could be way below the real count.
But not all overstaying aliens are connected with POGOs. Some had untainted bona fides but overstayed just the same when the global borders closed restricting their movement because of the coronavirus pandemic. Insiders in the BI talk about hundreds of thousand aliens that have overstayed.
Where these aliens are located now and what they are doing real-time, nobody knows. What their IDs really are, nobody can reliably prompt their host communities. With these conditions on the ground, do we still consider our Republic safe?
The High Court ruled in Rosas v. Montor and Sabdullah, G.R. 204105, that every sovereign “has the inherent power to exclude aliens from its territory upon such grounds as it may deem proper for its self-preservation or public interest. In the Philippines, aliens may be expelled or deported from the Philippines in the manner provided for by the Constitution, the PIA of 1940, as amended, and administrative issuances pursuant thereto.”
So, while the Chief Executive has the power to deport aliens, and to change the status of non-immigrants by allowing them to acquire permanent residence status without necessity of visa, and other powers with respect to aliens in the Philippines, a more comprehensive approach with sweeping efficacy is desired. This, even as the Executive department’s mechanism to address the attendant evils is being undertaken by the Immigration bureau. Massive deportation of aliens involved in crimes is reportedly in the offing—and this is demanded by the cross-sections of the population.
But, with the expected P1.6 trillion budget deficit, is not this situation of overstaying aliens ripe for possible sourcing of revenue through an amnesty program—or better known as social integration program?
POGO has been a source of huge revenue for the government. But some heinous crimes have been perpetrated by people who play and patronize the program. Certainly, there is a need to balance government actions.
As a solon quipped: POGOs are good, but POGoons are bad; support the former, deport the latter.