A Bureau of Immigration (BI) official on Monday assured senators that the issuance of visas upon arrival (VUA) remains suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Deputy Commissioner Tobias Javier, the VUA policy was suspended in January 2020 and the suspension is still being enforced currently.
Javier said this in response to Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda Marcos’ question during a Senate hearing on the proposed 2021 national budget.
Marcos wanted to clarify the matter amid reports that sex trafficking is still happening despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions the government has imposed to slow down the transmission of the coronavirus.
The issue regarding VUAs cropped up during the Senate Committee on Women, Children and Gender Equality’s investigation into the influx of Chinese nationals in the country, which the committee believes, spurred the rise of sex trafficking and other heinous crimes in Manila.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate women’s panel, expressed belief that the VUA mechanism was instrumental to the increasing number of gambling-related prostitution dens in the Philippines.
But Javier said the visa upon arrival is still suspended and those who are arriving in the country might be using a visa issued by the government consular offices abroad.
“Kung visa upon arrival (VUA), di po nila magagamit dahil suspended po yan ngayon. As of January 2020 po, wala pong visa upon arrival (if they have visa upon arrival, they cannot use that now. As of January 2020, we don’t have the VUA mechanism),” the immigration official said.
“So we assume that ang ginagamit is landing visa or visa issued by our consular office,” the official pointed out.