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Opinion

‘Your country should be kinder to Filipinos’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

What should have been an everyday ordinary check-in experience at an international airport abroad turned into something of a frustrating experience for a Filipino physician who recently returned from Switzerland. This is the short version of his narrative that he posted on social media:

Eksena sa Check-In Counter (Zurich, Switzerland Airport):

Checker: Where to? / Me: “Philippines” /Checker: “Oh You’re the first Filipino passenger we had today. This should take a while....maybe 20 minutes? / Me: “Oh, sorry for the hassle...” / Checker: “You don’t have to be sorry, your country just has a lot of requirements for their citizens compared to (other) foreign tourists. / Me: “Oh...yeah...sorry for the hassle again” / Checker: “Your country should be kinder to Filipinos. You should have lesser requirements”

When I reached out to the good doctor he said that “at the Zurich Airport, I was asked the ff: 1. Passport with visa 2. Vaccination card 3. Hotel booking confirmation for quarantine (in the Phl) 4. Negative PCR test 5. QR code from the Bureau of Quarantine. The experience was generally smooth, I just was told that the process will take longer for me because I am Filipino and that the ground staff in Zurich noticed that entry in the Philippines is more difficult for Filipinos compared to foreigners (returning to their own countries).

“Upon arrival in the PH: 1. I had to fill out another health declaration (which is already in the BOQ One Health QR code. 2. Customs declaration form. 3. BI arrival card.” The physician shared that the requirement for the Bureau of Quarantine One Health certificate caught him unawares, perhaps because it was not properly advertised or announced. He added that people abroad have found it difficult to keep track of Philippine regulations and health protocols because these constantly change. The online forms were also very long and would surely be very challenging for senior citizens, PWDs who are not familiar with using such Apps. “What I learned in Switzerland is they just have one QR code for everything.”

Other countries are apparently so well organized that they already consolidated all necessary information and documents into an internationally recognized QR code void of fraud or technical glitches. I decided to bring attention to this particular incident because it is proof that the Philippine government continues to adopt a policy from the 1980’s where the Philippine government simply passes and places the burden for documents and documentation on its citizens.

Back in those days, the issue had to do with Filipinos wanting to leave the country by any means possible. So on many occasions, you would hear or read about fake passports confiscated by embassies and at the NAIA. The solution was to impose so many financial and documentary requirements and even ask embassies to do likewise for Filipinos applying for visas.

While businessmen like Joey Concepcion and airline executives push hard for the easing of restrictions on returning Filipinos, what the good doctor shared with me is evidence that we have much more to do in reducing the paperwork and processing for returning Filipino citizens. Yes, the Philippine government needs to be kinder to its citizens by going after lazy bureaucrats unable to adopt best practices of other governments.

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I have recently witnessed first-hand a “millennial” junior executive decide to resign his job rather than go back to the physical office or F2F workplace. In typical fashion, the individual chose to give up his job because a return to normal would force him to get an apartment or a studio or rent a room nearby and this would reduce his current income substantially. But of greater importance to the individual was having to remove himself physically from his home and family members with whom he has bonded so closely in the past few months or year during which he worked from home.

This of course did not go well with the traditionalists among his employers who could not comprehend such a decision. I, on the other hand, worry about how many people will react when businesses and employers finally issue their respective “back to work” orders? I have seen greater benefits of “work from home” mode because being online makes it easier for our guests on AGENDA to join us, compared to the days when guests had to be at our studio by 7 to 7:30 am. That usually meant they had to be on the road much earlier due to the horrendous traffic on EDSA. But now we have a much easier way of getting guests that they find easy and appealing. Yes, many of us are actually apprehensive or having dreadful thoughts about back-to-work or F2F call outs.

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While the smuggled or tax-evading Ferraris and Porsches have gone into hiding, it seems that the clever clods in the buy and sell business of luxury sports cars have resorted to vehicles with less bling but are still high-end. According to sources in the local auto industry, the importers and money launderers now prefer to move SUVs, particularly Toyota Land Cruisers, Range Rovers as well as Fords that have not even been launched or introduced by Ford Philippines. One dealer with about five branches told me that there was an estimated 1,000 units of Toyota Land Cruisers that may have entered the Philippine market in the last year and will surely increase due to the demands for campaign vehicles for 2022. The volume importation of the Toyota Land Cruisers was reportedly so rampant that the gray market or parallel importers ended up dictating or influencing the ultimate market price for new Land Cruisers instead of the Philippine distributor.

Legitimate automotive dealers and distributors are now keenly watching if the Bureau of Customs will remain vigilant and true to their word about stopping the tax avoidance schemes and operations or will they just go after smuggled vegetables?

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