Filipino-Japanese gets nod for short trip to Japan

By Ronron Calunsod, Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 06 2014 06:32 PM | Updated as of Aug 07 2014 02:32 AM

MANILA - A 70-year-old Filipino-Japanese man who is facing Philippine immigration problems after he was recognized last March as a Japanese citizen was allowed Wednesday to leave the country for a short trip to Japan.

Bienvenido Toshio Shin's scheduled weeklong trip starting Tuesday to his Japanese father's homeland in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan was delayed by a day after the Philippine immigration bureau regarded him as an overstaying foreign national in the Philippines after the Japanese government's issuance to him of a Japanese passport.

Applying existing Philippine immigration regulations on foreign nationals, the bureau estimated Shin, who had no record of entry in the Philippines on his newly issued passport, owes the government almost 1.5 million pesos (around $34,300) in penalties for his "unauthorized" stay in the country during the last 70 years.

Shin, who is a resident of Bukidnon Province in the southern island Mindanao, was born in the neighboring province Davao del Sur to a Filipino woman and a Kagoshima native in April 1944.

His father, identified as Eiji Shin, came to the Philippines before World War II and engaged in charcoal making before getting married.

However, during the war, his father was called into the Japanese Army to serve and was later repatriated to Japan. They never met again.

"I'm very happy that I can finally travel," Shin told Kyodo News at the main airport in Manila before taking his afternoon flight to Tokyo.

He expressed gratitude to the Philippine Nikkei-Jin Legal Support Center, a nonprofit organization that helped him acquire his father's nationality and facilitated his first trip to Japan.

Shin is expected to hold a reunion with his Japanese relatives in Kagoshima, as well as visit his father's grave. He will return next Monday.

Acknowledging the center's repeated request for special consideration on Shin's case, the immigration bureau said in its latest order Wednesday that Shin can be allowed to travel, under certain conditions "given the extraordinary circumstances of this case as well as his colorable legal claim to Filipino citizenship."

The conditions include the deferment of collection of his accrued immigration arrears, his inclusion in the hold departure list, and his inclusion in the blacklist should he fail to return by next Tuesday, among others.

The center's Norihiro Inomata, who escorted Shin at Manila airport, expressed appreciation to the immigration bureau, saying, "I think they all considered him as really a victim of the circumstances of World War II."

"There will be more discussions on this in the bureau, and we will recommend that there should really be a special regulation for cases like that of Mr. Shin because these descendants deserve humanitarian considerations," Inomata told Kyodo News.

He said that if possible, Filipino-Japanese descendants who get Japanese citizenship should not be accused of illegally staying in the Philippines prior to their being officially recognized as such, and they should not be subjected to visa regulations because they still regard the Philippines as their home.

Inomata disclosed that his organization is still attending to at least 26 pending petitions of Filipino-Japanese descendants at the Tokyo Family Court, and around 40 other cases are being planned for filing next year.

Since 2004, the center has helped 129 Filipino-Japanese descendants acquire Japanese citizenship, including Shin.

The center estimates there were around 3,000 second-generation Filipino-Japanese descendants in the Philippines, of whom nearly 900 were not registered with the Japanese government due to unfavorable conditions after the war.

Almost all their Japanese fathers arrived in the Philippines before the war.