The Duterte administration should investigate why 3.8 million Chinese tourists have visited the country since 2017, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan said today in an interview.
Pangilinan, a vocal government critic, raised the possibility that these tourists could be undercover Chinese government agents. He also described their presence as the “21st-century colonization” of the Philippines. The Department of Justice, which oversees the Bureau of Immigration, should oversee the investigation, he added.
“Where are they? At the minimum, we have to know. Are they still here, or are they coming and going? If they’re still here, which sectors are they working in? Are these sensitive sectors? Telecom, energy? Are these very sensitive national security agencies? We should know. We have to know where they are, and if they are still here,” he told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo in English and Filipino.
He suggested that these tourists are possibly coming to the country because of Manila’s dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea. An international court in 2016 declared that China has no historical claims over the area, but its military continues to increase its presence in the territory. The Chinese often harass Filipino fishers in these waters, and in 2019 they even hit, sunk, and abandoned a Philippine fishing vessel. The Filipino passengers almost died if not for the assistance of Vietnamese rescuers.
“We have a dispute over the West Philippine Sea. Our fishermen are hit by the Chinese militia boats. They have a purpose; they have an interest [that’s why they are here]. Do they plan to invade the West Philippine Sea and make our country weaker? I hope not,” Pangilinan said.
He raised the possibility that millions of Chinese tourists enter the country because they bribe Filipino immigration officials. In February, an immigration officer alleged that his colleagues receive PHP20,000 (US$393) per week in bribes to allow Chinese workers to enter the Philippines.
“If they are here because they have given bribes, that makes them undesirable aliens. They should be deported. The law should be implemented. We have to do something; we cannot be inutile,” Pangilinan said.
He also alleged that at least 45% of the people working in the Duterte government’s Build, Build, Build are Chinese nationals. He said that the infrastructure budget of at least PHP600 billion (US$12.4 million) should be used to employ Filipinos, many of whom have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“How many jobs can you give to our countrymen [with that money]? That’s why they should be prioritized. This is not a small amount. We should prioritize our countrymen; that’s the whole point of Build, Build, Build,” he said.
“The problem with Build, Build, Build, those who are benefitting from it are foreigners and not Filipinos,” he added.
Earlier this week, a Senate investigation showed that almost 28,000 Chinese nationals have retired in the Philippines, some of whom were as young as 35 years old. Lawmakers have said that the retirees could be a threat to the country’s national security.