AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said that his intelligence staff is coordinating with other government agencies to confirm the claim of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that 3,000 Chinese military personnel are doing intelligence operations in the country.
AFP/STR
AFP probes entry of 3,000 Chinese troops in Philippines
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is validating reports that at least 3,000 Chinese military personnel are already in the country conducting intelligence operations.

AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said that his intelligence staff is coordinating with other government agencies to confirm the claim of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that 3,000 Chinese military personnel are doing intelligence operations in the country.

“We are in the process of validating the report of Sen. Lacson, that being a matter of serious concern. I have my staff for intelligence to confirm the said report,” Santos said.

“Since he (Lacson) himself said it has to be validated, then it’s a raw intelligence report on his part. Then we have to investigate,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing yesterday in Malacañang.

“I’m sure the AFP  is already validating that, given that it is being reported by no less than a senator of the Republic,” he added. But he said he could not issue statements “based on speculation and unverified report.”

“All we can say is we in the government are always concerned when any issue affects the national interest and national security,” he said.

Panelo said the government would make an “appropriate response” once the report about the supposed presence of PLA troops in the country is verified. 

However, a senior military official downplayed Lacson’s claim, saying it is more likely that only 300 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese intelligence operatives are in the country.

The source also described Lacson’s report as an exaggeration and that while he doesn’t know the senator’s source, any country that undertakes foreign intelligence operations doesn’t deploy so many operatives.

He added if China wants to obtain information from other countries, it could always use cyber warfare which has less risk of exposure than deploying an army of agents.

The official said PLA troops are not trained to conduct foreign intelligence operations, much less deploy huge number of agents to a third country.

He said China has the Ministry of State Security that specializes in foreign intelligence and espionage, though some of its agents have been recruited from the PLA.

But for sure, he said, there are already Chinese intelligence operatives by the hundreds deployed in the country. 

He also said the PLA members could be on an immersion mission similar to the pre-World War II concept.

Immersion, he said, in the military sense means forward deployment of soldiers in a country to be invaded, just like the Pacific War where some Japanese soldiers who passed themselves off as plantation workers were already present before the war broke out. 

The source also said that with better Philippines-China relations, it is assessed that China will not take the risk of invading the country with very little strategic gain.  –  With Alexis Romero

AFP CHINESE TROOPS
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