POSTSCRIPT / June 24, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Recto's fearful forecast: After the polls, the deluge

THE GREAT FLOOD: Viewing the recently concluded canvass, the ongoing joint session of Congress to proclaim the president-elect, and whatever might follow, reader Ron Nethercutt of Angeles City takes us to the Book:

“The Bible tells of 40 days of rain which flooded the earth, and the 40 days in the Passion of Christ before His crucifixion.

“Just recently it took 40 days to count the votes cast for the president. The 22 members of the joint congressional committee finished the official canvass on June 20 — or 40 days after the national election.

“It now appears that the rain will be replaced by the reign of a Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as President of the Philippines.”

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NOW THE DELUGE: But just as the rain was followed by the great flood that covered the earth in Noah’s time, Sen. Ralph G. Recto, chairman of two powerful Senate committees, expressed fear that a “deluge” could follow the May elections.

The head of the ways and means and the accounts committees warned that “the country is faced with a huge debt service tsunami that threatens to wipe out any gains from the imposition of new taxes.”

Recto said the government would have to cough up P1.74 billion every day this year for debt service.

He said the debt repayments would exceed P600 billion next year largely due to the government’s absorption of the debt of the National Power Corp. estimated at P600 billion.

To cover the firm’s outstanding debt, the government will have to set aside P90 billion next year to amortize principal and pay the interest. Where will the government get this kind of money?

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EXPENSES OVER EARNINGS: Even if debt service in 2005 will not be raised above the level this year (which is unlikely), the government will still need a P634-billion debt fund next year.

Recto said the present P542-billion level would be topped, because of the depreciation of the peso and the effects of the government’s having gone on a borrowing binge the past several years.

Without Napocor’s debts being absorbed by the government, regular debt service is still expected to grow by 10 percent, resulting in a P600-billion debt service requirement. But now we have to add P90 billion to service Napocor’s debts.

The government has a tax collection of P530.8 billion this year, yet we are spending an average of P609.6 billion based on the reenacted 2003 budget.

This shows that the government is spending more than it earns. Always short of money, it seems inevitable that we would have to plunge all over again into more borrowings and sink deeper into debt.

Indeed, a tsunami is building up in the horizon.

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MIXED REACTIONS: The tales told by readers of how their minor children or grandchildren bearing foreign passports were given shabby treatment at the airport triggered sympathetic vibration in others who had gone through the same ordeal.

To recall, two readers, Elsa Bayani and Edessa Ramos (POSTSCRIPT, June 20 &22, 2004), wrote of how the minors arriving with them were held at the airport where an obscure immigration rule was sprung on them and made to pay fees “at the discretion of the immigration commissioner.”

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REACTIONS: Allan G. Kato of United Hills Village, Paranaque, noted: “I can’t imagine why Ms Bayani is complaining. After all, there was a law presented to her by the immigration personnel and the law is supposed to be followed. She should be aware of this, coming from the great and mighty United States of America.

“The irony of the whole thing is that Ms Bayani is indignant that she was fined at the airport after having procured that expensive affidavit attesting to the fact that she would look after her granddaughter’s welfare while in the Philippines. But she wasn’t able to really look after the welfare of her granddaughter, was she? How come she never checked the immigration stamp on her granddaughter’s passport? She should thank the immigration people for allowing her granddaughter to leave without paying the measly P2,500 (less than $50) overstaying fine!

“I feel so compelled to comment on Ms Bayani’s letter because she was questioning OUR laws. She felt that the phrase ‘at the discretion of the Commissioner’ to be an unjust proviso. What about the unjust and utterly illogical discretion that the US consuls wield in rejecting Filipino visa applicants?”

Reader Roland Asuncion (ip=202.42.255.254) said: “Per my wife experience, same thing happened, same explanation, same excuses for ‘we would allow you to leave this time without any penalty.’ Actually by the time my wife told me about the incident I know it’s part of their modus operandi.

“We did pay all the necessary affidavits before they went back home for a short vacation so that everything should be in order but is still the same. I think they always single out single parents and those people who are naive in this kind of things.”

Reader Lpbustria, using an aol address noted: “These children are not aliens. They are Filipinos too. Their parents are Filipinos. What happened to our dual citizenship law?”

Jobs(Tely) using an Ecc.ac.th address: “My family and I usually come to visit every year and we spend thousands of pesos just to have fun and have enjoyable holidays. I never remembered having a good passage at the NAIA. It is always a hassle. Why can’t these officials make our brief encounter pleasant. Customs act like vultures prying into our luggage, asking impertinent questions as if we are smugglers. They are a shame to our country and they need a lot of orientation on good reception and courtesy.”

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ENLIGHTENING ITEM: But Frank R. Cimafranca of the Philippine consulate general in Geneva contributed an enlightening item:

“There is really nothing unusual about the procedure undertaken by immigration officers at the NAIA in respect of the granddaughter of Mrs. Elsa Bayani and the son of Ms Edessa Ramos. Based on their narration, it would seem that the immigration officers were merely doing their duty in implementing our immigration laws and regulations.

“The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 (Commonwealth Act No. 613), as amended, the law that controls and regulates the entry of aliens into the Philippines, provides in Section 29 (a) the classes of aliens who shall be excluded and among them are “…(12) Children under 15 years of age, unaccompanied by or not coming to a parent, except that any such children may be admitted in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration, if otherwise admissible.”

“Put another way, this provision simply means that minor aliens below 15 years of age, if unaccompanied by a parent or if not traveling to join a parent who is already in the Philippines, are not allowed to enter the country unless their entry is approved by the Commissioner of Immigration. And for such minor aliens to gain entry into the Philippines, the parents or guardian must first file an application for ‘Waiver of Exclusion Grounds’ (WEG) with the Bureau of Immigration.

“The application for the WEG may be filed beforehand at any Philippine embassy or consulate abroad or, if proof of admissibility can be presented, the WEG can be obtained upon the minor alien’s arrival at the port of entry. Issuance of a WEG does not come along free. There is a fee involved.

“I would like to believe that the incidents complained about arose because of miscommunication or, perhaps, the failure of some of our immigration officers to properly explain the law and regulations. And ‘proper explanation’ entails a lot of patience and courtesy.

“In our culture we do not like to get caught or entangled in some legalistic bind. We resent procedures that are too formal and impersonal. As Filipinos, we need to communicate with one another in a more informal and personal way, including ‘explaining what the law and regulations are all about.’”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 24, 2004)

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