Philippine Lawmakers Urge Tighter Rules on Chinese Nationals Amid Security Concerns

Two Philippine lawmakers urge stricter regulations on Chinese nationals' entry into the country amid national security concerns. An investigation is ongoing into the sudden influx of Chinese students, with many found not enrolled in classes despite holding student visas.

author-image
Nitish Verma
New Update
Philippine Lawmakers Urge Tighter Rules on Chinese Nationals Amid Security Concerns

Philippine Lawmakers Urge Tighter Rules on Chinese Nationals Amid Security Concerns

Two Philippine lawmakers are calling for stricter regulations on the entry of Chinese nationals into the country amid growing concerns over national security and Beijing's relations in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez are urging authorities to tighten rules and regulations on foreign nationals, particularly those from China.

Why this matters: The influx of Chinese nationals into the Philippines raises concerns about the potential for espionage and national security threats, which could have far-reaching implications for the country's sovereignty and regional stability. Furthermore, the abuse of visa regulations for monetary gain or other illicit activities could undermine the integrity of the country's immigration system.

Rep. Barbers is urging President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to scrap Executive Order (EO) No. 285, which allows the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to convert tourist visas to student visas. Barbers warns that this power can be abused for monetary gain, citing the 16,200 student visas granted to Chinese nationals in 2023 as "unacceptable." "In today's setting, this particular power by the BI can be abused. This arbitrary power to convert visas is the worst legalized scheme that can be used by unscrupulous personnel for monetary gain," Barbers stated. He believes the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should be the sole agency in charge of granting visas to foreigners.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner, wants the DFA to be stricter in granting tourist visas to Chinese nationals, citing Beijing's continued aggressive activities in the WPS. He is urging for a more comprehensive and stringent vetting of Chinese visa applicants to ensure peace and order in the country and national security. "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," Rodriguez emphasized.

Rodriguez also expressed concerns that many Chinese nationals have entered the country as employees of Philippine Overseas Gaming Operators (POGOs) and are involved in illicit activities. He suspects that some Chinese nationals, including students enrolled in schools in Cagayan province, may be spying for their government. Rodriguez's bill banning POGO operations in the country has already been approved by the House Committee on Games and Amusement.

The calls for stricter regulations come amid an ongoing investigation into the sudden influx of Chinese students in the Philippines. According to Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco, records show that 1,516 Chinese nationals in Cagayan were granted student visas, all endorsed by a large university in the Philippines. However, a verification process revealed that only 485 of these individuals actually enrolled in classes as of April 2024, with the majority participating in remote classes.

The Inter-agency Committee on Foreign Students is set to convene on May 13, 2024, to discuss the issue of the rising number of Chinese students in the Philippines and the large number of Chinese nationals holding student visas in Tuguegarao City. As tensions between Manila and Beijing continue over the West Philippine Sea dispute, the calls for tighter regulations on Chinese nationals entering the country underscore the growing concerns over national security and the potential for espionage activities.

Key Takeaways

  • Philippine lawmakers call for stricter regulations on Chinese nationals' entry amid national security concerns.
  • 16,200 student visas granted to Chinese nationals in 2023 spark concerns over abuse and espionage.
  • Lawmakers urge President Marcos to scrap EO allowing tourist visas to be converted to student visas.
  • Stricter vetting of Chinese visa applicants sought to ensure peace and national security.
  • Investigation ongoing into sudden influx of Chinese students, with many suspected of not actually enrolling in classes.