Thursday, 18 June 2009

Philippines -- Immigration policy as economic stimulus

By Tony Lopez
Manila Times

When businessmen and investors visit the Philippines, the first person they see and meet is not their business partner or associate. Nor their banker.

It is the immigration agent. After all, the Philippines, with an archipelago of 7,107 islands, has a coastline double that of the United States. The country’s borders have a notoriety for being porous—easily penetrated by foreigners, the wrong and the right kind.

This makes the Bureau of Immigration an essential agency in attracting investments to the country.

Accordingly, Commissioner Marcelino C. Libanan has instituted major reforms at the bureau. He cut red tape drastically, reduced if not totally removed fees, many of which were ridiculous and unreasonable, employed technology to speed up paper work, and promoted job creation by offering indefinite stay or virtually permanent residence visas to foreigners who invest and pledge to create at least ten jobs.

The last reform—permanent residence visas for those who promise to create ten jobs each—promises to create 100,000 jobs almost instantly. Libanan is enthusiastic about the outcome. It has created more jobs than the number of jobs lost due to the economic slowdown as evidenced by the paltry 0.4-percent GDP growth rate in the first quarter.

The BI is an agency that is now perceived as honest, efficient, and investor-friendly. BI last December was removed from the National Competitiveness Council’s Top Ten list of government agencies plagued by red tape and delays in processing of documents.

Previously, BI was No.3 in the list because of the length of time it took to process working visas of expatriates.

The bureau’s visa-issuance-made-simple (VIMS) program cut processing time for visa applications by 80 percent and documentary requirements by 40 percent.

The Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) also cited the BI for its success in cutting red tape through the VIMS’ implementation.

The PAGC ranked the BI No. 3 among the 100 government agencies that are periodically evaluated by the commission for their performance in fighting corruption. BI was previously No. 7.

Also, the BI is an active participant in the performance management system—office performance evaluation system (PMS-OPES) of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which aims to institute meritocracy in the bureaucracy. BI was declared the valedictorian.

Among Libanan’s reforms are: the VIMS, or Visa Issuance Made Simple, the Pre-arranged visa upon arrival, or PVUA, the no-touch, no contact policy for investors and OFWs, the mobile immigration counters, and the Job Generation Visa which has created thousands of jobs and become a major economic stimulus program.

Investors who are of Chinese and Indian ancestry have ceased being the cash cow of corrupt immigration agents. Commissioner Libanan lifted the so-called “restricted/high risk” category of aliens for Chinese and Indian nationals in September 2007.

At the premier international airport, Commissioner Libanan has installed closed-circuit TV cameras to ensure total transparency and that no bribery takes place in contacts with arriving or departing passengers. A spanking black uniform has been mandated for all BI agents and officers. No lunch breaks are allowed, ensuring constant presence of agents at their desks.

Nonoy Libanan also opened extension offices in Parañaque City, Caloocan, Rizal and Laguna provinces, making things easy for foreigners and investors.

Libanan is not new to visionary management. As a legislator for nine years, he was one of the top two most productive members of the House, for the number of laws and bills he authored. He was a student leader and activist and some say, a former New People’s Army sympathizer if not a commander himself. After hours, Nonoy plays a mean guitar and is a regular concert performer.

Libanan, 45, finished med tech and law at the Divine Word University in Tacloban and passed the bar in 1998.

After Immigration, Nonoy should be destined for bigger and better things. It is not clear yet what his political plans are.

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 16, Nonoy was our guest at the TV talk show BizNews I co-host with Elizabeth Lee. The NBN Channel 4 show is on the air every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.


  1. bkit po marami na uupload khit me authenticate na ang incvitation ng tourist anu b dapat ang ggawin..nassayang lng ang pagbili ng ticket,d amn pla pd makaalis,,,bkit po?

  2. to mr/ms anonymous...hold lng nila un..dahil hingi cla ng pera....un lng...bwisit cla...