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Monday, May 27, 2024

Intel, security agencies to probe suspect foreign students

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Foreigners in the Philippines holding student visas may be subjected to government intelligence investigation if found to be conducting illegal activities, according to the Bureau of Immigration.

BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said that under the law, foreign nationals who acquire their student visas may be subjected to checks by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for activities “which appear to be inimical to the security of the State.”

Under the law, the bureau can only issue student visas to foreign nationals who have been endorsed by legitimate schools and by Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

All schools who accept foreign nationals as students are required to submit their regular reports to the BI who shall monitor their visa compliance. The CHED shall ensure compliance with education-related policies, and the NICA will conduct investigations on suspicious activities,” he said.

In 2023, a total of 1,516 Chinese nationals were granted student visas in Cagayan as endorsed by a Philippine university. However, reports showed that more than 400 Chinese nationals are on-site, as the school is said to be implementing distance learning.

“The rise in students may be attributed to post-pandemic rebound, as well as the aggressive marketing of schools and government agencies to boost the country’s educational tourism,” he added.

Foreign students might be investigated by government intelligence agencies because it is part of the government to ensure the country’s security.

“The government is actively promoting the country as an education hub in Asia and we hope that these concerns will not scare away legitimate students whose stay in the country and help boost the economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa on Friday underscored the need for a “whole of government approach” to determine any underlying motives in the influx of Chinese students in the Philippines.

“The government ‘should not sleep’ and immediately act on this report,” said the former Philippine National Police chief during a phone interview.

This early, he said all concerned government agencies and law enforcers and not only the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which should conduct a probe.

“For all we know, we might later see that these Chinese students are already Philippine passport holders,” he added

He recalled a recent Senate investigation on Chinese nationals carrying Philippine passports. “So it is necessary that the investigation should start now,” he said.

“Indeed, this should not be simply ignored,” Dela Rosa said.

Asked if this is a national security concern, Dela Rosa stressed we should be always one step ahead in establishing their purpose and presence in the country.

When pressed if he thinks the Chinese students are merely spying on us since they chose to enroll in schools near EDCA sites, Dela Rosa emphasized it’s a big possibility.

He said history has taught Filipinos that before we were invaded by the Japanese, their people, businessmen, abacca workers, were already in our communities.

“During the World War 2,” he further said, “our ancestors saw these Japanese wearing their uniform. It could happen again.”

Reacting to the Chinese embassy statement that the coming of Chinese students was the result of the cultural exchanges, and that the accusations were unfounded and malicious, Dela Rosa pointed out it is just normal for Filipinos to doubt because of what they have been doing in the West Philippine Sea.

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