May 27, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Solon wants stricter visa controls for Chinese students, POGO workers 

THE stricter controls imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Chinese nationals applying for tourist visas should cover other Chinese citizens seeking to enter the country, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez today said.

He made the statement amid heightened tension between the Philippines and China in the wake of Beijing’s continued aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea, the most recent of which is the water cannoning of Philippine Coast Guard vessels near Panatag Shoal, known to Zambales and Pangasinan fishermen as Bajo de Masinloc.

“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,” Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner, 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 said.

He also said that many Chinese nationals have entered the country as employees of Philippine Overseas Gaming Operators or POGOs, and are involved in illicit activities such as murder, extortion and kidnapping, and caused social ills like prostitution. Many of them have police escorts. 

Rodriguez’ bill banning POGO operations in the country has already been approved by the House Committee on Games and Amusement. 

A number of them are suspected to be spying for their government, including Chinese students who have reportedly enrolled in schools in Cagayan province, he added.

The Mindanao lawmaker noted that Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara has expressed concern over the influx of Chinese students in his province.

Lara said the influx started after the government identified a naval base in Sta. Ana town in Cagayan as an additional site for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) activities. 

Another EDCA site in the region is a military camp in Gamu, Isabela.

Rodriguez urged the DFA, Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to conduct an inventory of Chinese citizens studying in universities not only in Cagayan but in neighboring Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and the Cordillera Region as well as all over the country, in the wake of conflicting reports on their number.

According to the immigration bureau, a total of 1,516 Chinese citizens were granted student visas in Cagayan in 2023, while Lara claimed there were more than 4,000 Chinese students in the province.

Rodriguez said even if the BI figure of 1,516 is the correct number, “that is still a large concentration of Chinese students in one province. What courses are they taking up there? he asked.

He said CHED should find out what attracted Chinese students to the Northern Luzon province.

The big enrollment of Chinese students is also happening in other colleges and universities in the country. 

He said CHED should also look into whether there is the same pattern of Chinese student migration to other EDCA sites and other colleges and universities In the country. 

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