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Agency officials invited to Senate hearing on Chinese students

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Agency officials invited to Senate hearing on Chinese students
“BI officials will be invited... Maybe also the DND since the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) site is located there. Any and more of these resource persons can possibly shed light on this and be the basis of our feasible recommendations,” she said in an interview over radio dzBB.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Department of National Defense (DND) and local government units will be invited to the Senate hearing on the influx of Chinese students in Cagayan, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said yesterday.

“BI officials will be invited... Maybe also the DND since the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) site is located there. Any and more of these resource persons can possibly shed light on this and be the basis of our feasible recommendations,” she said in an interview over radio dzBB.

The influx of Chinese students might be a new form of the “pastillas” bribery scheme, Hontiveros noted.

“Is this a new form of the pastillas scam like what happened to Chinese online gaming employees?” she asked.

Exposed in 2020, the scheme involved immigration officers who received bribes wrapped in white paper, like the local milk candy “pastillas.”

Foreigners, mostly Chinese, had bribed immigration officers and received special treatment upon arrival in the country. They secured a Philippine visa and would later work in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO).

“We can recall the abuse of visa upon arrival (VUA) back then and other immigration processes that let Chinese POGO employees enter without being checked,” Hontiveros said.

“Because of those hearings, our VUA system was suspended. Maybe this is what will happen with this development right now among the Chinese students in Cagayan,” she added.

Hontiveros said she would wait for Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s decision on which Senate committee would investigate her resolution on the influx of Chinese students.

“Local and national officials could also be invited, especially those who have already spoken and said that it is no longer a national concern but regional because other ASEAN member countries such as Thailand have already figured in this issue,” she said.

In Thailand, Chinese nationals have reportedly used official Philippine documents to work in scam hubs, she noted.

About 4,600 Chinese students are staying in Cagayan to allegedly serve as spies of the Chinese military, based on reports.

The BI clarified that only 400 Chinese students remain in Cagayan, while a university denied that about 1,500 Chinese nationals enrolled in their institution, raising suspicion and allegations of a diploma mill.

The BI said its records showed that it issued student visas to 1,516 Chinese nationals endorsed for admission by a university, but only 400 of these students remain in the province as others had opted to avail themselves of the school’s distance learning program.

Hontiveros said the Commission of Higher Education could also be invited to the Senate hearing to figure out the enrollment status of the Chinese students.

The senator also questioned the coincidence of the influx of Chinese students in Cagayan where an EDCA site is located.

“It seems like there are too many coincidences for them to say that it’s just people-to-people. Whereas their people-to-people relationship with us, especially in the ocean, is very unfriendly, right?” she said.

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