By Kris Crismundo

Department of Justice. (File photo)

MANILA – A technical working group (TWG), led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and includes members like the Board of Investments (BOI), has been formed to reinforce the monitoring of the issuance of special visa to foreigners eyeing to invest in the Philippines.

BOI Director Ryan Ramos told reporters in a virtual press chat Wednesday evening that the TWG eyes to create a database of special visa endorsed and issued by investment promotion agencies (IPAs) to potential foreign investors.

“The DOJ created a technical working group for visa-issuing agencies, this is (an) ongoing (initiative), and the purpose really is to have a database to be shared with the (Bureau of) Immigration, so that the Immigration would know if how many visas were already issued by the IPAs, and to monitor if these foreign nationals granted with special visa are currently in the Philippines or outside the country,” Ramos said in mixed English and Filipino.

Trade Undersecretary and BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo also allayed fears that the Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) being issued by BOI has been used by foreign nationals to enter into Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) activities.

Rodolfo and Ramos said there are around 3,000 current SIRV holders, 70 to 80 percent of which are Chinese nationals.

They said that in 2020, the BOI only issued 18 SIRVs, 42 in 2022, 80 in 2023, and 71 so far this year.

Rodolfo said these numbers are not much to cater to POGO operations.

“There are requirements and we monitor them diligently every year,” he added.

Aside from documentary requirements, Ramos said, a non-resident eyeing to get an SIRV from BOI shall deposit a minimum of USD75,000 in an accredited Philippine bank, which remittances shall be converted into investments.

Ramos said most of the investments of SIRV holders are in the local stock market and Philippine corporations, while some put up their own companies.

SIRV holders are also required to submit their proof of investments in the Philippines yearly for the revalidation of their special visa, he added.

Guo Huaping’s SIRV

Meanwhile, Rodolfo and Ramos confirmed that the IPA issued an SIRV in 2000 to a Chinese national named Lin Wenyi, who has three dependent children including Guo Huaping, whose identity is being linked by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian to suspended Bamban Mayor Alice Guo.

Guo is allegedly being linked to the illegal POGO activities in Tarlac town.

Guo’s team has both denied the suspended mayor’s involvement in POGO activities and the allegations that she is Guo Huaping.

Ramos said Lin Wenyi applied for SIRV in 1999 along with her three dependents. It was approved in 2000 after meeting the requirements.

He added that Lin Wenyi applied for revalidation in 2003.

He said that upon the BOI’s annual monitoring, Lin Wenyi has remained an eligible SIRV holder.

The family’s investment in the Philippines was in an embroidery company based in Valenzuela, Ramos said.

In 2011, Lin Wenyi requested to revoke her SIRV along with the special visa of her dependents as they will apply for Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) under the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA).

Ramos said the BOI only grants SIRV to dependents aged below 21 years, while the PRA, at the time, can issue SRRV to a principal’s dependents “as long as he or she is not married and not 35 years old.” (PNA)