Gov't officials see influx of Chinese workers as security threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 31) — A number of top government officials on Wednesday expressed apprehension that the influx of Chinese workers in the country could pose as a national security threat.

"Kung ako ang tatanungin mo bilang (If you ask me as) National Security Adviser, I have the tendency to look at it as a threat," National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said in a media briefing.

"I'm on the cautious side. Because when foreigners, regardless of nationality, come in and their intent is not clear, or when some of them are undocumented, or have wrong documentation, false documentation... Natural, sasabihin ko sayo na (I will tell you that) I have concerns on that," he added.

In a separate statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, "The influx of undocumented aliens, regardless of nationality, is a threat to national security, unless it appears that they are refugees seeking asylum in the Philippines."

Government data show more than three million Chinese nationals have entered the country since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016 and fostered friendly ties with Beijing. However, the data also indicate thousands may have been working in the country illegally or without proper documentation, particularly in the Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGO industry. Majority of the Chinese workers in the country are with the POGOs.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez estimated that the government could collect at least P2 billion monthly from foreigners' taxes. The Bureau of Immigration has since required all foreign workers to sign up as taxpayers before applying for a Philippine work visa.

Esperon said that while Chinese tourists and workers might be good for the economy, the government "must not let our guards down."

"You would also start getting worried when a whole building, a condominium tower is occupied by only one nationality where you might not be able to guard their activities," Esperon said, adding that authorities should be ready to prevent any illegal activity.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. stressed that the government should tighten its watch on foreign workers.

"We need to put an end to visas upon arrival; all visas should be issued by consular offices after vetting. We must take extra care in outsourcing any part of the visa application process, picking only the most reputable worldwide," he said in a tweet.

Esperon said relevant government agencies such as the Labor Department, Finance Department, Immigration Bureau and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have conducted inter-agency meetings to address concerns over the high number of foreign workers in the country.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.