Gordon furious: What? Gov’t allows 35-yr-old Chinese to stay in PH as retirees?
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon on Monday fumed after learning that Chinese nationals as young as 35 years old are allowed to stay in the Philippine as retirees, with several senators raising the possibility of them secretly working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
“It upsets me na kung sino lang ang dumating dito, 35 years old, papayagan mag-retire dito,” Gordon told the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) during the hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT).
(It upsets me that anyone who comes to this country and only at 35 years old is allowed to stay here as retirees.)
The PRA, an attached agency of the DOT, is mandated to “develop and promote the Philippines as a retirement haven as a means of accelerating the social and economic development of the country” by providing a “globally competitive retirement program,” according to its website.
Before Gordon’s confrontation with PRA General Manager Bienvenido Chy, Senator Nancy Binay asked the latter regarding the age bracket of foreign retirees staying in the country, most of whom are Chinese nationals.
In response, Chy said: “We start from 35 [years old] and up.”
According to PRA data, the top foreign retirees staying in the Philippines are mainland Chinese, with 27,678 followed by Koreans with 14,144.
“The reason for the 35 years of age is in Korea, the military would retire at the age of 35, and these are retirees who would avail of this program,” Chy said.
“This has been the practice when I came in, this has been passed upon the Board of Trustees, and just a continuing program,” he added.
Still, Binay raised concerns that these Chinese retirees could be working for POGOs, too.
“I don’t know if you are monitoring them; are you sure they are not working here in the Philippines and all are retired?” she asked.
Further, Senator Joel Villanueva noted that in 2019, the Department of Labor and Employment apprehended 6,678 illegal workers who initially came to the Philippines with tourist visas “then afterwards they have been working illegally.”
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, previously conducted several Senate hearings on the influx of illegal foreign workers in the Philippines.
Chy told senators that the age of POGO workers who are usually Chinese nationals is 20 years old.
“Those who are 35 years of age, more or less, they choose the Philippines as their retirement destination,” he added.
But Gordon raised that a possible reason why Chinese nationals seem to favor the Philippines as a retirement haven is that they “can go back and forth” with a retirement visa.
“That, to me, is dangerous. I’m disturbed by it…We’re not just gonna monitor it; we’re gonna correct it. Because 35 is just too young. Not to cast aspersions upon our neighbor, would they allow us to retire at 35 there? I don’t think they would even allow us to retire in China,” Gordon said.
“Minamaneho mo napakaimportante, papaasukin mo lahat (You are leading an essential agency and yet you will let everyone to come in). You don’t bring the python into the hen house,” he added.
“You better look at that. That’s a national interest consideration there, national security,” he further said.
Gordon said even if Chy merely inherited this policy, he “should be savvy enough to know and check” what these 35-year-olds are doing in the country.
“You really got me upset. You have all sorts of excuses. Can’t even say, ‘It’s my fault.’ Don’t point to anybody because you’re the one there. You’re on the hot seat,” the senator said.
Chy told senators that the PRA would submit to the Senate a complete profile of the country’s foreign retirees and committed to studying the issues raised by the senators to “change the policy if it is possible.” [ac]
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