Chinese Imperialism Reaches The Philippines Through Lax Immigration Law
China is slowly creeping into the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte proceeds to kick out American troops from the islands through the revocation of a key defense pact.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has responded by moving in to fill the vacuum.
Jason Castaneda of the Asia Times, wrote that “Duterte’s recent decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allowed the US to rotate troops and position equipment in the country, is opening the way for China to solidify its competing strategic position in the country.”
According to Philippine Senator Richard Gordon, China is reportedly conducting undercover and illicit activities, such as espionage and money laundering.
The probes led by Gordon have included investigations of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens employed in the burgeoning online casino sector, known locally as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs). POGOs are generally clustered around key military installations and strategic bases in the capital of Manila.
Gordon asserted that the POGOS have been infiltrated by PLA soldiers for intelligence gathering and other strategic purposes. Those claims were confirmed after two card-carrying PLA members connected to a POGO were arrested in a shooting incident in Manila the past month.
The Senate investigations have unveiled numerous instances of official corruption and conspiracy which has enabled a substantial number of Chinese citizens, including roughly between 2,000-3,000 PLA soldiers, to illegally and secretly live in the country.
Under the “pastillas” scheme, which whistleblower Allison “Alex” Chiong of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) made public, Chinese nationals pay close to 10,000 pesos (US$200) as a “service fee” for special treatment and easy access into the country.
Although around $40 of that fee goes to immigration officers, the rest is reportedly divvied up among senior officials and other allies of the president who preside over the alleged syndicate operating out of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Public outrage against the POGOs has recently grown, spurred by the Duterte government’s tardy imposition of a travel ban on Chinese nationals in response to the Wuhan flu outbreak that has been spreading rapidly in recent months.
Many are of the opinion that corrupt officials who benefit from the POGOs and import of illegal Chinese workers played a substantial role in the decision to let thousands of Chinese citizens, including some from Wuhan, the virus’s epicenter, to enter the country even after the Chinese government decided to quarantine the entire Hubei province.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on national defense and security and a former police chief, stated that security agencies recently sent him information claiming that thousands of undercover PLA members are carrying out “immersion missions” in the country, with Chinese spies operating as POGO workers in disguise.
“The intelligence community should exert extra effort to gather information in this regard,” Lacson recently commented.
Lacson, Gordon, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have all made warnings recently about how China plans on exploiting the new security vacuum caused by Duterte’s recent annulment of the VFA with the U.S., a move that has put the legal status of the two sides’ 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in question.
“That may confirm a yet unvalidated report that a good number of PLA members are on ‘immersion mission’ in several parts of the country, although the reason for it is still unclear,” Lascon remarked.
“The police as well as the intelligence community should lose no time in exerting serious efforts to authenticate the discovered PLA using sources independent of the Chinese government, for obvious reasons,” advised the senator.
Senator Gordon, who is a Duterte ally, has warned of widespread money laundering and the development of a potential “fifth column” infiltration of Chinese security forces.
“There is tolerance. I don’t know where it is coming from,” declared Gordon, possibly suggesting that Duterte, who is friendly with Beijing, is partly responsible for the threat, according to reports from the media.
“The shenanigans of what we see here, all happened because of the policy decision to allow overseas gaming operations in our country,” asserted Drilon.
“What is happening in our country is apparently rooted in the very presence of POGOs run by the Chinese. If there were no POGOs, all of these nefarious activities would have no purpose,” he continued.
It has yet to be determined if Duterte’s pro-China administration will make any reforms to tackle these threats.
“He [Duterte] told me…We really need the funds from those [POGO] operations,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during a time when people want to see POGOs close their doors. “Because the money we get from whatever [Chinese] sources is for the government, so the government can use that in any undertaking.”