Fixers in the Philippines are as common as ladyboy hookers at KTV bars. They’re probably in every corner, crack and crevice throughout all 7,107 islands of this archipelago (along with the ladyboys.) In the latest report released by Transparency International, the Philippines climbed to 85th place from 94th last year and 105th in 2012 in the Corruption Index. This is being touted as a remarkable improvement by an administration which has jailed three opposition senators while members of their own party accused of similar crimes go unpunished.
My asawa and I have had a peso savings account with BDO, Banco de Oro, for a couple of years. We established it when my ATM debit card from our bank in the United States expired. At the time we needed to open an account so my sister-in-law from Kuwait, Marjorie, an OFW, Overseas Filipino Worker, could easily send remittances to us. We care for her two children, Shaina and Sherwin. Here’s the story of how BDO screwed up our dollar account in the Philippines.
I had concerns. Having not left the Philippines since my arrival over five years ago, I was worried that even though I was in possession of a 13a Permanent Visa, I would not be able to get my Emmigration Exit Clearance, ECC, at the airport. Though I had been assured by my local Bureau of Immigration Office in Iloilo that I could obtain my ECC at NAIA, I still had my worries. I felt better after contacting Randy Landis who reaffirmed what my local BI Office told me, but you never know about Immigration officials at the Manila Airport. There are too many online horror stories about foreigners being “shaken down” and having to pay extra fees to leave the country. To my knowledge, if you have a Tourist Visa and have not left the Philippines in over six months, you will need to process your ECC at a local Bureau of Immigration Office that can handle that process. It cannot be done at the airport anymore per a directive from Bureau of Immigration Director Mison.
I haven’t left the Philippines in almost five years. I do plan, however, to return to America this year, to visit my Father. I’ve heard different horror stories from other American expats in the Philippines who’ve related some of the difficulties in obtaining the Exit Clear Certificate, ECC.
The 13a Permanent Resident Visa. In the opinion of Gary Wigle and myself, along with other American expats, this visa is the cheapest, most hassle-free visa a person who intends to retire and live in the Philippines can obtain. Of course, your spouse has to be Filipino in order to sponsor you for it, but once you have the 13a, living in the Philippines becomes that much easier.
My asawa must have been bored. She volunteered to go with me to the Immigration Bureau Office in Iloilo City. I had to make my annual report as a foreigner. Breezy warm day. Temperature 28° C (82.4 F) and 89% humidity. Arrived around 10 am. The place was crammed with people, the majority of them Filipino. Fortunately the air con was working. Only two people waiting in the facility last year at this time. I knew we were in for a long wait.
It’s that time of year again. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration has reminded all foreigners in the country to report in person for their annual report beginning Jan. 2, 2013. Aliens have until the first 60 days of every calendar year to report. The fee is P310, about 7.55 US Dollars.