For 31 years, the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) has been cited as the leading agency in promoting the country as a significant retirement destination this side of the world. As such, through its work, the PRA exists as an effective channel in accelerating the socio-economic development of the country.
Under the almost seven-month-old Duterte Administration, the task of nurturing and pursuing the agency’s valuable performance has been given to lawyer Bienvenido Chy. Since officially assuming office on November 4, 2016, the new PRA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer has initiated several plans to continue to attract more foreigners to retire in the Philippines, promoting the country as “a retirement haven, retirement paradise and top destination for foreign retirees.”
From San Beda to PRA
A graduate of the San Beda College of Law, Class 1972, Chy brings with him to the PRA many years of legal expertise. He started his career as deputy clerk of court before starting his own law practice.
He also joined the Bureau of Immigration from 1986 through 2010, and rose from the ranks as legal officer to chief of the Law and Investigation Division of the agency. He was further designated on several occasions as Acting Chief Commissioner.
“When I was still at the Bureau of Immigration, I was able to decongest our immigration detention cells because at that time, there were more than 700 inmates. I was able to reduce [the number]to less than 200. I immediately applied those foreign detainees for their visas, and as for their tickets, I contacted their embassies so they could already leave the Philippines and go home to their respective countries,” Chy recalled to The Sunday Times Magazine during this one-on-one interview.
“I stayed at the Bureau of Immigration for 23 years and after my tenure, I put up a law office where I practiced law again until President Rodrigo Duterte asked me to join the Philippine Retirement Authority as General Manager.”
Unknown to many, Chy and President Duterte were classmates in San Beda. They became close both literally and figuratively since they were seated alphabetically, putting students Chy and Duterte side by side. Both men have stayed good friends to this very day.
Despite being a long-time confidant to the Davao Mayor-turned-President of the Republic, Chy confessed to The Sunday Times Magazine that he was initially hesitant to accept Mr. Duterte’s offer to head the Philippine Retirement Authority.
“When President Duterte tapped me for the agency, I was a little hesitant at first because I had a law office with several partners. But then I thought about his goals for the Philippines—to be a prosperous country, free from drugs and very peaceful—and I realized that with the vision he has for change and the betterment for the Filipino people, I should also assist him and do my part,” Chy explained.
Once he assumed office, however, Chy was denied of the proverbial honeymoon period since his predecessor, according to the staff, had left as early as August even without a replacement. As such, he was left with piles of documents for perusal and approval from Day 1, which he strove to accomplish in record time. With The Sunday
Times Magazine interview held just before Christmas, Chy was rightly proud to say that the agency had zero-backlog in just a month-a-half of office.
“Besides all the paper work, I also had to immediately go to Hong Kong and Tokyo, Japan in the middle of
November and attend seminars, which were organized by four big foundations. During these trips, I learned that many were interested to join PRA programs but had concerns about the processing period. Their basic request is for faster processing of visas, which currently takes some three weeks to complete,” related Chy.
“That’s why we’re now in the process of collaborating with the Bureau of Immigration on this plan to cut down the processing of foreign retiree visas to only one week. All the same, on my first day of office, the marching order of President Duterte was to streamline the processing period, stop red tape and stop corruption in the government.”
Chy further reached out to those waiting of their foreign retiree visas in Davao, Cebu, Pampanga and Baguio and hosted Christmas parties for them at the PRA satellite offices. His goal was to make them feel the Philippines is truly and already their second home.
The PRA in numbers
Abreast of all facets of the PRA three months into his term, Chy acknowledged that the agency is steady in its progress. Citing figures, he said the PRA has already enrolled close to 48,000 foreign retirees for visas, 10-percent of which were accumulated in 2015. More importantly, the PRA recently remitted dividends amounting to P190.44 million to the Bureau of Treasury for the Fiscal Year of 2015.
As of October 2016, the biggest number of retirement enrolees to the Philippines come from China at 16,834; Korea with 9,964; Taiwan with 4,206; India with 3,657; Japan with 3,390; and the rest from various countries.
“These retirees want to consider the Philippines as their second home with some of them interested to put up businesses in the country but have a hard time applying for business permits with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and other government agencies. It is in these two instances where the PRA would come in.”
As the main man to market the country in this respect, Chy volunteered, “In the Philippines, we can offer peace because foreign retirees are well informed that President Duterte is doing his part to make the Philippines a peaceful country. Second, it is more economical to retire in the country because some pensions are not enough to afford the high cost of living in their respective countries; and third, we have top-notch caregivers, nurses and doctors who are admired worldwide. Lastly, our economy is really growing for those interested to do business. In fact we have already outpaced our neighboring countries including Singapore and Malaysia. We are fast becoming a dragon economy.”
He further described the PRA to offer the “best retirement visa” officially known as the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV).
“With this visa, holders may indefinitely stay in the Philippines as long as they want without giving up their citizenship. Secondly, they will have multiple-entry privileges, exemption privileges, access to greet and assist programs, and discount privileges from services offered by PRA Merchant Partners. They will be exempt from paying any travel tax, plus their children can also study here in the Philippines,” Chy enumerated.
“Best of all, enrolees need not go to Bureau of Immigration to secure any documents because we will assist them. The bureau will only help us implement their visa. Once the visa is implemented in their passports, they’re good as Filipinos because they can already enjoy all the privileges of a Filipino except the right to vote.”
For those wondering how accepting thousands of foreign retirees to the Philippines will benefit the country, Chy explained how this population has significantly contributed to the welfare of the government and the Filipino people. One example Chy cited is Huang Rulun, a 65-year-old Chinese real estate tycoon who just donated 10,000 beds for the drug treatment and rehabilitation center (TRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. Another is Japanese casino billionaire Kazuo Okada who is behind the new Okada Manila in Parañaque. The businessman is helping boost employment in the country with his pledge to hire 20,000 Filipinos in the next two years for the $2.4 billion integrated resort and casino.
“It’s a win-win situation,” he added.
Chy, in the course of his term, further plans to establish more satellite offices in Boracay, Puerto Princesa, Bohol, Ilocos, and Isabela among other places from the knowledge that foreigners there lack information on what the PRA can do for them. By reaching out to the retirement market, he hopes to convince them to stay in the country permanently.
“Retirees from all over the world should consider the Philippines as a retirement haven firstly because of our climate. They can enjoy our nice islands and our golf courses. We have friendly people who are always very accommodating from their genuine smiles alone,” he reiterated.
Meanwhile, the PRA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer also shared with The Sunday Times Magazine, that for his part, accepting the post is also a win despite his initial hesitation. His reason? The unexplainable fulfilment that comes in helping people.
“Once you decide to serve the people and you are in public office, you have to give your best. You should be honest and work with integrity. You should have a constant goal to work for everyday. When you do all that, there’s this sense of fulfilment that you won’t find anywhere else,” he guaranteed.
Asked what his ideal retirement scenario would be when the time comes, the Philippine Retirement Authority Chief smiled and replied, “I will look for a place where I can be with my family and enjoy the rest of my years; and somewhere I could invite friends to play golf and sing songs. And maybe, if I keep practicing my favorite tunes, I can start a whole new career,” he ended with a chuckle.