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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Better safe than sorry

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IS IT Sinophobia and racism?

We raise this query amid serious concern by some legislators and even the military on the reported influx lately of Chinese nationals in Cagayan province.

Representatives Joseph Lara of Cagayan’s third district and Faustino Dy V of Isabela’s sixth district had earlier filed resolutions in Congress calling for an inquiry into the presence of Chinese nationals in the Cagayan Valley region.

Lara said their presence “poses serious concern to national security,” considering the country’s maritime dispute with China.

For her part, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Senate should conduct an inquiry and invite officials from the Department of National Defense, Bureau of Immigration and Commission on Higher Education, among other agencies, to shed light on the issue.

The DND should be invited to the probe, she pointed out, precisely because an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement site is located in that province.

Then there’s armed forces Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. who said the military is looking into the issue since some local officials in parts of Luzon had alerted authorities to Chinese nationals who were living in their communities but did “not know how to speak Tagalog.”

The AFP chief reported that when the houses of some of these foreigners were raided, firearms were found, leading to their immediate deportation.

He urged local officials, especially mayors, governors and barangay officials, to always be vigilant and make sure that visitors in their areas were legitimate tourists, not “possible infiltrators…Let us help protect our territory, our sovereignty and our sovereign rights.”

Civic leader Teresita Ang See bristled at all this and slammed what she described as the “dangerous and unfortunate” stoking of “Sinophobia and racism,” adding officials who have weighed in on this matter should check their facts first.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III also cautioned officials to be “careful in echoing the allegations” raised regarding this matter. Pimentel pointed out the conflicting figures on the number of foreign enrollees in Tuguegarao City.

It was earlier said that were more than 4,500 Chinese students presently attending classes in one private university alone. However, the Bureau of Immigration said it only issued a total of 1,516 student visas to Chinese nationals in Cagayan last year.

The controversy is likely to persist until Congress probe hears both sides.

Is it Sinophobia and racism?

It could be, if taken at face value and without any context. But if cause and effect were to be examined, the concern—or perhaps even fear—over the big number of Chinese students in an Edca site may not be totally unfounded.

Congress, therefore, conduct a thorough probe so that the issue can be properly addressed.

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