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Friday, May 31, 2024

Solons eye Chinese presence in Cagayan

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NSC, CHED called to conduct own probes

Senators are seeking to investigate the reported influx of Chinese students in schools near areas covered by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, in particular in Cagayan that is facing Taiwan, as they called on the Commission on Higher Education and the National Security Council to do their own probe.

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The Chinese embassy in Manila said: The unfounded accusation of our educational exchanges is yet another malicious sleight of hand to incite suspicion and hatred of China. Insightful people in the Philippines have not lost sight of this tendency by calling it ‘McCarthyism’ resurrecting in the Philippines. This deserves high vigilance and must be resolutely opposed.

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This came on the heels of a House Resolution filed by Cagayan 3rd District Rep. Joseph Lara for a probe into the alarming rise of Chinese students enrolled in higher institutions in his province in the northern tip of Luzon.

“The Senate should look into the reported presence of Chinese nationals around EDCA sites. This is a national security concern that must be addressed,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva said aside from CHED, the National Security Council should also step in and investigate further.

He said the issue does not only diminish the integrity of the country’s education system but might also have implications on national security.

“We need to ensure that this is not a smokescreen for more questionable Chinese citizens to enter the country, such as workers in illegal POGO operations,” Villanueva said.

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III, for his part, said there are no Chinese students enrolled in local colleges and universities in Cagayan province but “there is a significant number of Chinese students enrolled in Saint Paul University Philippines (SPUP) – Tuguegarao City.”

De Vera said SPUP is a higher educational institution granted autonomous status by CHED since 2002 and has authority to accept foreign students by the Bureau of Immigration.

“On the security aspect, we leave the matter to the expertise of our security agencies to investigate and recommend appropriate actions. We will support and attend congressional investigations and other inter-agency meetings concerning these allegations. We welcome and shall cooperate should any investigation be required,” the CHED chairman added.

Sen. Francis Escudero said CHED can investigate the matter by issuing show cause orders to SPUP.

He urged security analyst and founding president of the International Development and Security Cooperation (IDSC) Chester Cabalza to file a complaint regarding this with CHED.

“A complaint is necessary as this is an ‘academic freedom’ issue that can have a serious pushback against government regulators with oversight function over tertiary schools,” said Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education.

Earlier, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers has called on the Bureau of Immigration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the military and police intelligence community to probe the influx of Chinese nationals in areas near EDCA sites and other major seaports and airports in the country.

“These DFA officials of ours in China – are they doing due diligence in approving the visas of Chinese nationals who come to our country? Maybe we should also find out from them the status of the Chinese nationals they gave visas to, the number of those who came here and returned to China, and how many are still left here,” Barbers said.

“One can see those warehouses sprouting like mushrooms in Central Luzon, particularly in Pampanga and Bulacan, Bataan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and nearby towns in the region. Now they are slowly but surely creeping in Cagayan near where the two EDCA sites are located,” he added.

Two of the four latest additional EDCA sites are located in Cagayan – the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana and the Lal-Lo Airport.

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