DFA: Issuing visas still a mandate of foreign office
Issuing visas to all foreign nationals remains a mandate of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its foreign service posts because of its implications on national security, the department said on Thursday.
“The DFA’s visa-issuing mandate is integral to the current national gatekeeping mechanism of admitting foreign nationals into the Philippines,” DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement.
“Over the years, the Philippines’ two-tiered national defense gatekeeping system ensures that the country’s national security is protected,” Daza said after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla complained that visas have been issued to unqualified, or even undesirable, foreign nationals.
Remulla ordered an investigation into the possible involvement of some travel agencies in facilitating the issuance of visas to Chinese nationals by submitting spurious documents.
“I am having this investigated because based on the information I received there are lawyers and travel agencies who are being used as a conduit for the entry of these individuals,” Remulla said.
While Daza did not directly address Remulla’s remarks, she said the DFA remains the regular visa-issuing agency and has tried to follow a “stringent” vetting process to filter out unwanted applicants.
This mandate is provided by several international and domestic laws such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the 1987 Administrative Code and the Codified Visa Rules & Regulations of the Philippines of 2002, she added.
“The DFA provides the first tier of defense gatekeeping while abroad with the development of a stringent admissions criteria for foreign nationals. This system ensures that only legitimate tourists, travelers and investors will be allowed inside the country,” Daza explained.
But because of the “many undesirable things happening in our seas and inside our jurisdiction,” Remulla suggested that a third-party visa-issuing company, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global, be contracted for the service.
According to its website, VFS Global was founded by Indian entrepreneur Zubin Karkaria in Mumbai in 2001, but it has since relocated to Dubai and is supposedly majority-owned by unspecified “funds managed” by US fund manager Blackstone Inc.
According to the DFA Office of Consular Service website, the DFA had already contracted VFS Global in the past to issue nonsensitive, nondiscretionary and noncomplex passport renewals in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.