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Marcos junks stricter visa rules for Chinese nationals

Charles Dantes, Macon Ramos-Araneta & Maricel Cruz

President Marcos on Thursday said there will be no stricter visa rules and regulations for Chinese nationals wanting to enter the country, only stricter scrutiny of visa requirements.

“There are no stricter rules for anyone. The rules are the same for all our friends who come,” the President said in a media interview.

The government, however, will intensify efforts to scrutinize visa applications and documents submitted amid reports of abuses, Mr. Marcos said.

“The problem is very clear: It’s coming out in the reports that there are people abusing it, so we’ll keep an eye on it. What we’re gonna do now is to be more strict about it. Before, we didn’t really pay much attention to it, but we’ve seen a lot of problems arise because of that, like getting fake documents and doing all sorts of things,” he said.

“We will treat everyone equally, but we will tighten the enforcement during the examination for those applying for visas or converting from tourist visa to student visa, and for those buying land because they pretend to be Filipino,” the chief executive added.

The President said the government will crack down on individuals engaging in illegal activities, regardless of nationality.

“Anyone who does that, we’ll catch them,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs last week announced it would tighten the visa requirements for Chinese tourists amid a high number of fraudulent applications received in its embassy and consulates in China.

The department clarified this has nothing to do with national security issues, adding that this would even benefit Chinese citizens who are often victims of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

A Filipino consul general also defended the additional visa requirements for Chinese tourists, saying these were intended to ensure that the rights and welfare of the travelers are protected.

“I believe that this is an issue that is purely consular in nature and this has something to do with our efforts to make sure that the rights and welfare of travelers going to the Philippines are also protected, by making sure that legitimate travelers are the ones that obtain their visas while still here at the post,” Minister and Consul General Arnel Talisayon of the Philippine Embassy in China said.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Tolentino clarified on Thursday he was only extending an “open invitation” and not formal summons to Chinese embassy officials as the Upper House launches an investigation into the alleged wiretapping of conversations involving members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Tolentino said it was a friendly and polite request for the Chinese diplomats to attend the Senate hearing voluntarily and “without any compulsion.”

“Good faith will be seen on the part of the Chinese embassy if they will voluntarily send their officials to the hearing,” the senator said, adding “we cannot force them to attend.”

However, Tolentino noted that failure to appear before a legislative hearing might indicate that they have secrets to keep.

Recently, the senator said Chinese diplomats risks expulsion and being declared persona non-grata should they be proven guilty of disrespecting the laws of their host country.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, chairperson of the Senate committee on national defense and security, scheduled a hearing on the wiretapping issue on Tuesday (May 21), based on a resolution filed by Tolentino.

At the House of Representatives, Deputy Majority Leader and Tingog party-list Rep. Jude Acidre cautioned foreign diplomats against abusing Filipino hospitality, stating they could be sent back home or face the full force of the law for any violations committed in the Philippines.

“I think it’s only reasonable that people who abuse our hospitality and abuse the privileges that are accorded in goodwill should also be sent home,” Acidre said.

Acidre’s statement was in response to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s directive for the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation into the alleged wiretapping done by Chinese diplomats based in Manila.

“To make it simple, diplomats are guests of our country. While they have their own privileges and immunity, it still boils down to the reality that they are guests of the receiving country,” he said.

“Wiretapping is illegal in the country. If it can be established that this Chinese diplomat has wiretapped or made a recording of phone conversations and leaked these documents, then they must be held accountable under our laws,” Acidre said.

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