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Fri. Apr 16th, 2021

THE ILOILO CITY IMMIGRATION OFFICE 2021 ANNUAL REPORT DISASTER

A recent Philippine Bureau of Immigration Press Release from BI’s Facebook page got my attention. It was the yearly reminder for foreigners to report their Immigration office. Yes, it’s that time of year:  the Annual Report of aliens.

Philippine Bureau of Immigration’s Annual Report Notice for Foreigners

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the annual report of aliens is in compliance with the Alien Registration Act of 1950. All aliens with immigrant and non-immigrant visas must report in person to the Bureau within the first 60 days of every calendar year.  Thus, the 2021 annual report period of aliens will be from Jan. 1 up to March 1.

Morente urged foreigners to immediately register with the BI’s online appointment system at http://e-services.immigration.gov.ph so they would be given their schedules on when they will make their annual report.

“As with all other transactions, we will not allow the entry of walk-in foreigners who wish to make their annual report.  They have to obtain their schedule via our online appointment system,” the BI chief stressed.  “Eight hundred slots for the AR are reserved per day, while Saturdays are reserved for those availing the services of accredited entities, as well as remote AR for bulk applicants,” he added.

Failure to Report Could Result in Severe Consequences

He explained that under the law, foreigners who are holders of immigrant and non-immigrant visas and were issued alien certificate of registration identity card (ACR I-Card) are required to make the annual report.

“Failure to do so may result in fines, visa cancelation, deportation, or imprisonment,” Morente warned.

He said that aside from the BI main office in Intramuros, Manila, aliens might also report to the nearest participating BI field, satellite or extension office.

Lawyer Jose Carlitos Licas, BI alien registration chief, said Foreigners who are out of the country during the 60-day period could still make the report within 30 days from the date of their return to the country, so long as their re-entry permits are still valid.

Aliens must present their original ACR I-Card and valid passport as well as pay a P300-annual report fee and P10-legal research fee, Licas said.

For aliens below the age of 14, Licas said their parent or guardian could make the report for them. Senior citizens and persons with disability are exempted from personal appearance, he added, and may file through a representative with a Special Power of Attorney.

COVID-19 and Immigration

With the advent of the so-called COVID-19 “pandemic,” I wasn’t surprised to learn that I would have to book an appointment with our local Immigration Office for the Annual Report.  I don’t mind going to Immigration every year and plunking down 300 pesos for the report. Nor do I mind the extra 10 pesos “legal fee.” “Legal fee?” For what? I don’t see a lawyer at Immigration.

However, after living in the Philippines since 2009, I’ve learned it’s just better to pay any required fees at Immigration. At least it’s not as expensive as the 500-peso mandatory “Express Lane” for some other Immigration transactions.

Moreover, it’s better than being clubbed over the head for not maintaining social distancing.

Do You Want to Be Caned for Social Distancing Violations?

(Joint Task Force COVID Shield head, police Lt. General Cesar Binag said law enforcers would use 1-meter “yantok” or rattan sticks to measure physical distancing and hit violators in crowded areas like markets, shopping centers, and churches.

That’s according to a report from ABS CBN NEWS and other news outlets across the world. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque later told reporters this practice is not allowed in Philippine law or the regulations of the Philippine National Police. Just the same, you might want to keep your motorcycle helmet on if you’re walking down any crowded streets in Metro Manila.)

Registering for My Appointment

So what did I do? Like any good “alien,” I immediately registered with BI’s online appointment system at http://e-services.immigration.gov.ph.

The form wasn’t difficult to complete. Here’s a look at the information that was required.

Create Account

ACCOUNT AUTHORIZATION

Account Type:

INDIVIDUAL

LIAISON OFFICER/LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE

Account Type

Email Address:*

name@example.com

Confirm Email Address:*

name@example.com

Password:*

Password

Please enter a password at least 6 characters long.

Confirm Password:*

Confirm Password

Please enter a password at least 6 characters long.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Suffix:

Suffix

First Name:*

First Name

Middle Name:

Middle Name

Surname:*

Surname

Gender:*

MALE

FEMALE

Civil Status:*

SINGLE

MARRIED

Country of Citizenship:*

Country of Citizenship

Birth Date:*

Birth Date

Format(MM/DD/YYYY)

Country of Birth:*

Country of Birth

Mobile No:*

Mobile No

I hereby certify that the information stated above is true and accurate.

I understand that non-cooperation to disclose truthful and significant data on matters of public interest concerns are punishable under applicable laws.

Further, I assent that the information collected can be shared only in relation to Bureau of Immigration’s internal protocols and in accordance to the site’s Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Have an account? Go to login

Go back to Homepage

Houston, we have a Problem

After completing the registration, I tried to set up an appointment. However, I had a problem. The system said my email or password was invalid. I couldn’t log on. I checked for FAQ’s.

“Before you contact us for your concern, please read the Frequently Asked Questions below.”

I did not receive the verification in my e-mail, where is it?

– Check your junk or spam folder in your e-mail. If nothing, please double check your inputted e-mail and make sure that it is typed correctly.

Well, I checked my email. Nothing there. Nothing in my Spam. Consequently, I filled out another form. However, this time I CLICKED ON THE “Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.” The Term and Conditions policy popped up and I clicked “AGREED.” This time I received my activation code in an email from Immigration.

I activated my account and attempted to create my online appointment. Since we live in the island province of Guimaras in Western Visayas, I have to take a pump boat to Panay Island where Iloilo City and the local immigration office are located. However, I had another problem. While the online appointment form had a drop down menu for “List of Field Offices,” the only office that showed up was “MAIN OFFICE.”

Now what?

Consequently, I went back to the FAQs.

“I want to book an appointment in your other offices but I can’t see them in the selection, can I still go there as a walk-in?

– If an office is not in the selection, then said office is not available for online appointment.”

It would have been helpful if Immigration had informed users ahead of time that the appointment system was only available for people wanting to go to the “MAIN OFFICE” on Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, in Manila. Why include a list of field offices option and leave it blank?

Then I recalled another expat on our island who, months earlier, had to go to the Iloilo City Immigration Office. He, too, was unable to book an appointment online, but managed to secure an appointment to receive his Permanent Resident Visa by contacting the Iloilo City BI. My expat friend forwarded the Facebook page of the Iloilo City BI that posted a number that could be called to make an appointment.

I called the number, 033-332-3353, and reached a helpful Immigration official in Iloilo. I was able to book an appointment in early January to file my Annual Report. My appointment time was from 9am to 2pm.

THE ILOILO CITY IMMIGRATION OFFICE 2021 ANNUAL REPORT DISASTER

UPDATED JAN. 5TH, 2021

My wife and I had to wake up at 2:00 am to board a RORO, Roll on-Roll off ferry to Iloilo City this past Monday morning January 4, 2021. While my appointment with the Iloilo Immigration Office was at 9:00 am, we would have to catch an early boat trip to nearby Iloilo City.

Thousands Wait for Hours

The trip from Jordan Wharf in Guimaras to Parola Wharf in Iloilo City normally takes only 15 minutes, but we could be waiting for hours for a ride to the city.   

Thousands of passengers from Guimaras bound for Iloilo City are suffering the consequences of inaction on the part of the Guimaras provincial government. The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) imposed a ban on wooden-hulled motor bancas (pump boats) that ply the Iloilo Strait. The ban was to take place in September. However, an extension from Marina to December 31 was put into place due to the so-called COVID-19 “pandemic.”

The ban, announced more than a year ago, was in response to the August 3, 2019, tragedy on the Iloilo Strait that took the lives of 31 passengers. Three pump boats overturned that fateful day. Fiberglass-hulled or steel-hulled boats are to replace the dangerous, aging wooden-hulled death traps.

Problem is, 60 boats used to be available on the sea route along with two RORO’s. An estimated daily 20,000-25,000 passengers travel the Iloilo Strait.

As of now, Buenavista, Guimaras, passengers ride on two fiberglass-hulled boats, two steel-hulled boats, and a fast craft operated by Yohan Express.

In Jordan, Guimaras, passengers can take a ride on two fiberglass boats and another Yohan fast craft aside from two RORO ferries that operate out of Lapuz, Iloilo City.

We use the Jordan Wharf since it is closest to our home.

The 4:30 am FF Cruz was crowded this past Monday morning. It was raining when we boarded the RORO around 4:10 am. We had time to spare, as the ferry didn’t leave until around 4:50 am.

Hanging Out with the Bee

Our taxi driver in Iloilo City took us to a 24 hour Jollibee’s. We ordered breakfast. While my asawa checked her Facebook, I impatiently waited. Finally, around 6:20 am, I suggested we go over to SM City. We could use an ATM and see if anything was open yet at the mall.

jollibee mascot at sm city bacolod

The rain had stopped. We walked. It was only about a 15-minute stroll and a breeze was keeping us cool. After using the ATM, we decided to go on to the Festive Walk Mall at Megaworld where the Iloilo City Immigration Office is located.

The helpful guard directed us to a nearby building that also housed the Immigration office. After visiting the CR, we went up to Immigration. A security guard was already posted at his desk. Several Immigration employees were also logging in at the front desk.

Walk-in’s with No Appointments

However, while I informed the guard that I had an appointment for today, I had to wait until I could log into the security desk’s logbook. No problem, we only had to wait another hour.

My “appointment” was specifically from 9 am to 2 pm. More foreigners showed up. Many of them were there to file their Annual Report. They hadn’t made an appointment. Didn’t matter. The guard had them fill out a form. I had already filled out my form and was given the Number “1” slot. 

Around 9:00 a throng of foreigners gathered around the front desk. It took several minutes for security to take care of the visitor backlog. While I was let in to begin processing my Annual Report at around 9:10 am, I still hadn’t received my receipt an hour later for the 310-peso fee I had already paid.

My passport and ACR Card was still in the possession of the Immigration Office. I finally asked a security guard about the delay. He informed me that normally Annual Reports are not done until 1 pm. Then I asked why I was given an appointment time of 9 am to 2 pm?

The guard could not explain that to me. However, those wanting to extend their Tourist Visas or applying for permanent residency were being given top priority.

Still No Receipt after 90 Minutes

After 90 minutes of waiting, I asked the employee who had initially screened me and taken my 310 pesos, why I hadn’t received my request yet. She informed me that my Annual Report had to go to the Assessor Desk first and that I should speak with them.

The Assessor was right in front of me behind a Plexiglas partition. I asked her why my receipt was being delayed but I was totally ignored.

At this point, I complained some more and was told that the Annual Report database was “offline” in Manila.

“Offline! I exclaimed. “That was the same excuse you used two years ago when it took me two hours to do my Annual Report.”

While I never shouted or used profanity, my complaint eventually led me to an invitation into the Acting Alien Control Officer’s office.

The door was closed.

A discussion ensued.

I asked the Acting Officer why it had only taken Immigration 10 minutes to process my Annual Report several years ago at their old location. The Manila offline excuse was given along with the so-called “pandemic” and the ever-present alibi for many problems, the infamous “glitch.”

In addition, it seems that only the Annual Report function was down. A string of other foreigners that were not filing an Annual Report were all able to receive their receipts. An “accredited” agent who was not an actual Immigration employee was handling all of their transactions.

(As of late afternoon Tuesday, January 5, no mention of any data base failure for the Annual Report was on the main Immigration Facebook page.)

The Outcome

I eventually calmed down and apologized for being too loud. I’m an American. I raise my voice when I’m upset. The Acting Control Officer apologized for the problem. However, my frustration level was high. I knew we would have to take care of our business as soon as possible due to the pump boat problems and return home to Guimaras.

Thankfully, the Acting Control Officer offered to leave my receipt with a fellow Guimarason who was working at the office. I was given my passport and ACR-I Card. Two hours had already gone by while waiting for my receipt. There was no word on when the Annual Report online function would return online.

We left the Festive Walk Mall to do some grocery shopping. Thankfully, we were able to board a Yohan Express fast craft around 1:30 pm that was already filled to the gills.

In the future, I will NEVER go to Iloilo City Immigration the first day or first week of January. I will go in February as a walk-in and  not bother to make an appointment because that did not make any difference whatsoever.

Hopefully, other offices are handling the Annual Report in a more timely fashion.

However, the pamphlets from Jehovah’s Witness have finally been removed from the main Iloilo City Immigration offices. The leaflets had been there for years. While I’m certainly not anti-religious, I feel that a government office is no place for religious material.

(With reporting from The Daily Guardian)

By The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 21 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Malinois called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people over the years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

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