The influx of Chinese nationals in the Philippines poses a security threat to the country, a high-ranking adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte said at a press conference today.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said this is because many Chinese nationals come to work in the Philippines with allegedly fraudulent documents.
“If you ask me, as a national security adviser, I have a tendency to look at it as a threat. Because when foreigners, regardless of nationality, come in and their intent is not clear, or when some of them are undocumented or have … false documentation, meaning some of them would come in as tourists, and end up as workers, [they become a threat],” Esperon said according to CNN Philippines.
Chinese workers in the Philippines have reportedly increased in the past few years, with many of them working in gaming companies where their language skills are needed.
This has made Filipinos worried, especially because many Chinese nationals are reportedly working here illegally. In June, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced that it canceled the work visas of hundreds of foreigners because they allegedly submitted fraudulent documents. Many of those foreigners were Chinese.
The Justice Department has also launched an investigation into allegations that some immigration officials at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport offer “escort facilitation services” wherein they help illegal Chinese workers enter the Philippines without any questions asked.
Esperon questioned the BI’s operations in the press conference today.
“Is there something wrong with our immigration officers? I will ask Commissioner [Jaime] Morente because from what I know, they are very strict. Does he know everything that his people are doing, are they screening those who are entering the country?” Esperon said, as quoted by ABS-CBN News.
“We must not let our guard down,” he added.
Esperon, however, debunked a rumor that some Chinese workers in the Philippines are members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
“There are those who say that they might be members of the Chinese army; I think that’s the product of a wild imagination,” he was quoted saying by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“[But] you would also start getting worried when a whole building, a condominium tower is occupied by only one nationality where you might not be able to guard their activities,” he said.
A report from Leechiu Property Consultants released in March said that condominiums in areas such as Makati, Manila, Quezon City, and Ortigas in Pasig City are being bought mostly by mainland Chinese nationals.
It estimates that Chinese nationals buy an average of 12 units per month, making them the top buyers in the Philippines’ real estate market.
President Duterte’s government is generally perceived to have pro-China policies. He said in February that he didn’t want to kick out illegal Chinese workers from the Philippines because this might also lead to the deportation of undocumented Filipinos working in China.
This line was echoed by his spokesman Salvador Panelo a few days later, which prompted the Chinese embassy in Manila to issue a statement saying that it does not encourage its citizens to work illegally in any country, including the Philippines.