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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Look out for China ‘Trojan horses’

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Apply visa curbs on all Chinese nationals, solon urges DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs should expand its policy of stricter controls on Chinese nationals applying for a visa to include students, businessmen and workers, and must be “on the lookout for Trojan horses,” a senior lawmaker on Sunday said.

“I am urging the DFA and our diplomatic posts in China to apply these stricter rules on all China’s nationals applying for whatever type of visa, whether they are businessmen, tourists, workers, or students,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

“Let us have a more comprehensive and stringent vetting of Chinese visa applicants for the sake of peace and order in the country, and our national security. Let us be on the lookout for Trojan horses among them,” he added.

Many Chinese nationals, he said, have entered the country as employees of Philippine overseas gaming operators (POGOs), and are involved in illicit activities, such as murder, extortion and abduction.

The Bureau of Immigration, for its part, said tightening the visa requirements for Chinese tourists would also help protect the country’s national security.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval, in a radio interview, said while tourism is important to the economy, public interest must also be considered.

“We also have to look into the national security issue, the safety of the country. If there are illegal activities, I think it’s also important to have strict measures if we see anything different happening or activities that are probably inimical to national security or public interest,” she said.

Sandoval made the statement following concerns raised by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, which warned the new visa policy could “discourage tourism and hurt businesses.”

Rodriguez, however, noted that a number of Chinese nationals are even suspected to be spying for their government, including students who have reportedly enrolled in schools in Cagayan province — which is near Taiwan — and those working in POGOs.

The lawmaker’s bill banning POGO operations has already been approved by the House committee on games and amusement.

Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara likewise expressed concern over the influx of Chinese students in his province.

He said influx started after the government identified a naval base in Sta. Ana town in Cagayan as an additional site for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement activities with the United States.

Rodriguez called on the DFA, BI and the Commission on Higher Education to conduct an inventory of Chinese citizens studying in universities not only in Cagayan but in neighboring Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and the Cordillera Region in the wake of conflicting reports on their number.

According to the Immigration bureau, some 1,516 Chinese citizens were granted student visas in Cagayan in 2023. Lara, on the other hand, claimed there were over 4,000 Chinese students in the province.

Even if the BI figure of 1,516 is the correct number, Rodriguez said “that is still a large concentration of Chinese students in one province.”

CHED should find out what attracted Chinese students to the Northern Luzon province, and look into whether there is the same pattern of Chinese student migration to other EDCA sites and other colleges and universities across the country, he said.

“This is a matter of national security and should be investigated by the authorities immediately,” Rodriguez added.


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