Occupation, not invasion

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Two congressmen from Cagayan province have called the attention of national authorities regarding the presence of a reported 4,000-plus Chinese nationals allegedly enrolled in three-month short courses in various private schools, mostly in Tuguegarao City.

The congressman shared his “intel” on radio and expressed his concern that these “students” are only seen at the supermarkets, have long-term lease and the students were described as military looking. The governor as well as the DepEd for the province have countered by stating that the actual number is only 400 “foreign students.”

Because of our tense relations with China in the West Philippine Sea, the issue has stirred up memories and stories told from World War 2 when the Japanese were also all over the country as gardeners, taho or bean curd vendors, shoemakers, etc. Then when war broke, all those craftsmen and traders turned in their attire for uniforms of the Japanese Imperial Army.

The Philippines has regularly been the flavor of the month among foreign students and nationals. I remember when Japanese and “Arab” men came in droves primarily for nocturnal entertainment. Then Nigerian students came, followed by Iranians, Koreans many of whom wanted to learn English or take up dentistry, etc.

Many mainland Chinese have been with us for years, if not decades. They started in Divisoria as illegal aliens setting up shops, then they started showing up in the provinces of Batangas and Bulacan, putting up hardware stores. Others reportedly even went as far south as Jolo.

Then they came in as armies of welcomed tourists until COVID intervened and caused the Philippines to shut down the border.

When the Chinese tourists stopped coming, POGO operators, criminal gangs, illegal recruiters and gamblers from mainland China crawled in and set up operations in Pasay City, Manila, Cavite and Pampanga, etc. Last I heard, they were already inside Ayala Alabang Village, where they are suspected of setting up and operating POGO hubs.

Last month, persons claiming to be homeowners at Multinational Village shared on social media fears over “groups of Chinese men residing in the village, where they allegedly conduct physical fitness training and exercises and have applied for 800 entry stickers for “vans.” Very recently, a huge POGO facility was raided in Pampanga and now the mayor whose name is on the documents is under investigation.

After hearing about the high numbers of “Chinese nationals” in the country, I began to wonder if such a large presence would qualify as form of “occupation” where the resident population was being slowly overwhelmed, economically displaced and services and resources being depleted through the purchasing power of the foreign group, like a corporate buyout.

I searched the internet with key words such as Occupation, Invasion, Siege and Incursion. The following definitions popped up:

“The primary difference between Occupation and Invasion is whether you are already there or not. In the Invasion, you start outside the country and physically move troops, vehicles, material and equipment into the enemy country.” Clearly no one is invading us, but on the other hand, the usual suspects are already all over the place.

So, I checked out Occupation of a territory: “In international law, a territory is considered ‘occupied’ when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” As far as territorial waters are concerned, the Chinese are evidently imposing their will by making themselves the authority at gunpoint. But on land, there is no such thing.

An interesting opinion popped up under “Occupation versus Siege:” “Unlike Occupation or naval blockades, there are no specific conditions that must be met for a siege to be established and for specific rules to become applicable. Sieges typically combine two key constituent elements: ‘encirclement’ of an area for the purpose of isolating it and bombardment.” From the description, part of our territory is clearly under siege through “gun boat” diplomacy.

Last but not least I read on “Invasion and Incursion:” “An Incursion is an Invasion as well as an attack. Incursion can also be used to describe things that rush in like an army such as an invasive species into a new region.” Bingo! There is no denying we have small armies of invasive species that burrow into the Philippine setting once they get into the country.

There is another angle that would be worth studying because it has already happened in Europe, America and Australia. This is the state of Migration/Immigration management and policies.

EU nations used to be accommodating, compassionate and liberal about migration policies. The mindset then was very commendable during a time when famine and plagues destroyed African countries and communities. In other parts of the world, there were boat people or refugees fleeing persecution and genocide.

So, the world responded with a lot of heart but not a lot of thought on the complexity of absorbing communities wholesale. Europe saw a deluge, the US, Australia and other countries were flooded by refugees and decades later, certain groups manipulated situations resulting in the US being swamped by an estimated one million illegal migrants all over the US.

In Europe, the failure in proper management of migration and foreign policy resulted in extreme abuses, criminal activities defrauding countries and the rise of ultra-right, anti-migration politicians who have prevented or hindered legitimate spouses, children and kin of EU citizens from migrating to certain EU nations.

They all failed to realize the long-term impact of liberal immigration policies, failure to invest and capacitate immigration units as well as the social cost to their own citizens as well as peace and order. Now more than ever, the country and government need to step up and build up the ability of the Bureau of Immigration to deal with threats as well as needs related to immigration and national security. We also need to give foreign policy a long, hard look.

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