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BI: Tighter visa rules for Chinese tourists to also help ensure national security

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Sunday that tightening the visa requirements for Chinese tourists would also help the Philippines protect national security, considering the illegal activities involving Chinese nationals.

Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval explained that while tourism is very important to the Philippine economy, the government also needs to implement stricter measures to protect public interest.

“We also have to look into the national security issue, the safety of the country. Kung merong mga ilegal na ginagawa [if there are illegal activities], I think it’s also important to have strict measures kung may nakikita na tayo na kakaibang nangyayari [if we see anything different happening] or mga activities that are probably inimical to national security or public interest,” she said.

Sandoval made the remark in reaction to the statement of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) that tighter visa rules for Chinese nationals visiting the Philippines could “discourage tourism and hurt businesses.”

She said that the BI has always been strict in inspecting arriving foreign nationals, particularly those involved in illegal activities.

Several Chinese nationals have reportedly been involved in organized crimes such as human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping, and fraud. Some of them were also linked illegally working for a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO).

This prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to tighten the Philippines’ visa requirements for Chinese tourists amid a high number of fraudulent applications received in its embassy and consulates in China.

The DFA, however, ruled out ongoing tensions with China in disputed areas in the South China Sea as the reason for imposing more stringent visa measures for Chinese visitors.

Sandoval welcomed this development, saying it would add a layer of security in the Bureau of Immigration’s assessment of foreign nationals entering the Philippines.

“Nakikita natin na malaking bagay ang karagdagang paghihigpit ng DFA doon sa pag-iisyu ng visa [the DFA's tighter restrictions on visa issuance as a big thing]. It’s really an added layer of security in assessing arriving, incoming passengers,” she said.

In assessing incoming foreign nationals, Sandoval said that the BI generally checks their documents, demeanor, and statements. If they see anything doubtful, she said the foreign nationals are sent out of the Philippines.

Last year, she said around 3,300 foreign nationals were denied entry to the country due to doubtful purposes of travel. —KG, GMA Integrated News