BI orders 2,736 Chinese to leave for violating visa conditions

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    IMMIGRATION Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday said he has ordered 2,736 Chinese to leave the country for violating the conditions of their visas and were blacklisted.

    Morente said the Chinese overstayed their welcome. He said they availed of the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) policy that allowed them to stay in the country for a non-extendible period of 30 days.

    “More than half of those who were ordered to leave were blacklisted from our country.

    While some were unable to leave due to circumstance following the cancellation of many flights due to the pandemic, those who stayed without sufficient basis were included in our blacklist,” Morente said.

    The VUA program, a joint project of the Departments of Justice and Tourism, was initiated in 2017 to entice more Chinese tourists to visit the country. Under the program, they can stay in the country for 30 days without the need to secure visas at Philippine embassies or consulates of their origin.

    The BI suspended the VUA program in January amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The suspension is still in effect.

    Immigration figures said some 4 million Chinese entered the country since 2017 though not all of them were through the VUA program.

    The program was marred with controversies recently after allegations surfaced that it was being used by Chinese to work illegally in the country, including the Philippine Gaming Offshore Operators or POGO industry.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros warned that the Armed Forces face very high security risks due to the plans of putting up cell sites in military camps of third telco player Dito Telecommunity, which is 40 percent owned by the Chinese government.

    Hontiveros said the Chinese government’s control over Dito is “very material” amid reports of China’s use of cyber surveillance in other countries, citing the ban on 5G technology from China in advanced countries which fear the Chinese government’s intrusion into their communications systems.

    “This is not an intrusion of an ordinary company. This is an intrusion of the Chinese Communist Party, their politburo. China is clearly trying to gather data that could compromise the Philippine Navy, our first of defense in the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.

    She said the Department of National Defense must continuously monitor the activities of foreign entities wanting to do business in the country so the Armed Forces can immediately thwart any intrusion.

    “The DND’s cybersecurity budget must be used to ward off any ‘invasion’ of China if it really wants to protect our sovereignty,” she said.

    Hontiveros had earlier called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to review the DND’s 2020 spending on cybersecurity in light of the agency’s proposed P500 million fund for the same category in 2021, as well as the deal between the AFP and Dito Telecommunity. – With Raymond Africa