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Tham ban not Koko’s call

Alvin Murcia

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SENATOR Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel throws his weight on the motorcycle taxi issue.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) on Thursday reminded Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel that only President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have the authority to declare a foreigner as undesirable and bar his entry into the country.

This was Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s response to the resolution filed by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel on Wednesday, seeking to declare Singaporean Angeline Xxiwen Tham, founder and chief executive officer of motorcycle taxi firm Angkas, as persona non grata for allegedly violating the ownership restrictions on a local business as stated in the Constitution.

Pimentel also claimed Tham was “bullying” the government.

Guevarra, however, said: “A legislative resolution, in general, merely expresses a sentiment and is usually intended to influence executive action.”

“In the case of a resolution seeking to declare an alien as persona non grata, it is the President or the DFA which have the authority to make such declaration,” Guevarra added.

He also stated that although Sen. Pimentel’s proposed resolution is non-binding, the executive department will give it the utmost respect and consideration as it is a co-equal branch of government.

Guevarra said there must be a formal declaration (persona non grata) first by the President or the DFA.

Under the Philippine immigration laws, however, any alien maybe barred entry by the Bureau of Immigration for reasons other than being declared persona non grata.

“As I said, the executive department will give much weight to the Senate resolution, once approved,” he said.

Pimentel’s Senate Resolution 287 sought to probe Tham and her “high-handed, arrogant and irresponsible acts” as a foreign national doing business in the country.

Pimentel mentioned Tham, a Singaporean, and her 99.996 percent share in Angkas, calling it a blatant transgression of the law which states that Filipinos must own 60 percent of public transport companies.

On 8 January, Angkas announced that Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca owns 60 percent of the company.

Earlier, Royeca explained that Angkas’ stakes were divided among six owners, with his stake fulfilling the law’s requirement. The Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) technical working group (TWG) took his statement as a blatant display of defiance and arrogance.

Pimentel, who is being accused of taking the role of being the chief backer of JoyRide (Angkas’ rival as a motorcycle taxi operator), also claimed that the indignation rally held by Angkas in December had aimed to paralyze traffic in Metro Manila.

On Thursday morning, the senator also belied allegations that JoyRide president Neil Sherwin Yu is related to his wife Kathryna Yu-Pimentel.

“The resolution cannot be in favor of anybody but for the foreigner (Tham) to now account for her actions. JoyRide president is a Yu, my wife is a Yu. That’s the critics’ logic even if the two do not know each other at all. I don’t even personally know the first Yu,” Pimentel explained.

“I do not have bias and favor of any current operator. I might even vote against the legalization of motorcycle taxis due to safety concerns. Hence, I do not have bias to and favor of any current operator,” he added.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, however, got together Angkas, JoyRide and a third bike taxi company, MoveIt, to settle their issues with the DoTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

On Wednesday, the government decided to drop the proposed termination of the motorcycle taxi pilot implementation program, increase the cap on the number of riders and include Cagayan de Oro City in its pilot areas.

They also agreed to raise the industry cap of 39,000 to 63,000 riders.

The three motorcycle service providers — Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt — will each have 15,000 riders in Metro Manila and 3,000 in both Metro Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.

with Maria Bernadeth Romero

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