By Joseph John J. Perez
LEGAZPI CITY (17-May-2013) – A single fake Agency Certificate of Registration (ACR) confiscated in Bicol in the year 2008 sparked the modernization efforts of the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) to introduce a microchip-embedded identification card for foreign nationals.
“The project actually started in 2005 to replace paper-based documentation of the bureau,” BOI Bicol regional director Josephus Ojano said in an interview during the recent radio program “Aramon Ta Daw” of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Bicol.
That single apprehension however expedited the entire process of innovations that the Bureau is implementing to adapt to technological advancement.
“It confirmed that indeed, fake cards are proliferating,” Ojano said.
That fake “alien card” carried another person and name and it took the bureau a week in conducting the authentication process. “With the new technology that we adopted, it will be very difficult to fake it and the chances are almost nil,” Ojano said.
“The good news is, the new card has the same price with the old document,” Ojano said. The document is also known as immigrants certificate of residence and it is a proof that the bearer is a documented alien or foreigner. Usually, the issuance of the document takes two months, Ojano said.
“As of March 31 this year, there are around 1,700 registered foreigners in Bicol and more than 900 are located in Legaspi City area,” Ojano said. Majority of foreign residents are Chinese and some of them already elected to become Filipinos, Ojano said.
Next top groups are religious missionaries and Indian merchants.
“There is also an observable increase of student visa applicants and most of them are in Naga City,” Ojano said.
Foreigners who are below 18 years old are conferred with Special Study Card Permit based on Section 94 of the Philippine Immigration Act, Ojano said.
“There is an observed changing trend in the number of usual applicants that is also brought about by marriages of Filipinas to foreign nationals mostly European,” Ojano said.
“We do an extra mile of giving counseling sessions with foreigners who are applying for visa to orient them on Filipino values and culture,” Ojano said.
The “hi-tech” identification card for foreign visitors is a way of assurance from the Bureau of Immigration that there is more fun in the Philippines.