(File photo)

MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is expecting to finish this month its verification of the records of more than 48,000 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers whose visas were already canceled.

“This is more than 48,000. It's quite a tedious task, admittedly, but we are confident that within the month we will see a breakdown of which of these numbers have already left the country and which are the ones that would be leaving,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said at the Laging Handa briefing on Friday.

The BI earlier canceled the visa of these foreign workers after the authority to operate of the POGOs employing them was either canceled or revoked by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

These foreign nationals are given a 59-day grace period to leave the country as a humanitarian option.

“The Department of Justice also mentioned that this is a humanitarian option and at the same time…it's also the more economic option for the government. Besides the order to leave, it's a part of the regular procedure of visa cancellation. With visa cancellation, there is no need to hold custody of the foreign national which results entails in fewer expenses for the government,” the BI official explained.

Sandoval also maintained that those who will remain in the country after the 59-day grace period will be subject to deportation proceedings.

“If they exceed it, for example they have taken 61 days before they leave, they have not left, We can initiate deportation proceedings. This is when the Commissioner (Norman Tansingco) can issue a mission order to effect their arrest. Our intelligence officers will arrest them, and possibly deport them back to their country,” she added.

On the other hand, Sandoval reported several accomplishments during the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

“First, we have successfully turned over the chairmanship of the DGICM – this is the ASEAN Forum of Immigration officers within the ASEAN region. So our relationship with the ASEAN counterparts is very successful and that is our contribution to the efforts of the ASEAN Nations,” she said.

The BI official also reported more than 200 arrests for various immigration violations including foreign fugitives.

“We have also partnered with various local law enforcement agencies in the arrest of numerous illegal aliens, most recently the 372 arrested by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) in separate operations,” she added.

Sandoval said they continuously catch various illegal aliens, including foreign fugitives.

“Especially those sexual predators that's what we really want to prioritize and prioritize the removal of these foreign nationals who are preying on our women and children – the vulnerable members of our sector. This is one of our priorities to arrest and deport,” she added. (PNA)