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Chinese Students in Cagayan

National Security Concerns or Misinformation?

The recent surge of Chinese students in Cagayan province, Philippines, has ignited serious national security concerns, prompting urgent calls for an investigation. The Philippine National Police (PNP) is actively engaged in intelligence monitoring of these students, particularly those in proximity to areas covered by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.

Cause for Alarm?

Lawmakers like Rep. Robert Ace Barbers see the high number of Chinese students near EDCA sites as suspicious. He questions why foreign students wouldn’t choose universities in Metro Manila and instead opt for a “less conspicuous” location like Cagayan.

However, the data surrounding the student influx needs to be more consistent. Initial reports claimed 4,600 Chinese students at St. Paul University, but the university clarified that there were only 486 international students, including various nationalities. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) confirmed issuing student visas to 1,516 Chinese nationals in Cagayan.

Concerns vs. Sinophobia

Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) President Bernard Nicolas Villamor strongly opposes reports that cast doubt on the legitimacy of foreign student enrollment. He maintains that such reports can be detrimental to universities’ reputations, but also acknowledges the need for a thorough investigation.

Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. emphasizes the need to investigate discrepancies in student numbers, differentiating it from “sinophobia” (discrimination against Chinese people).

Looking for Answers

Calls for a House investigation aim to clarify the situation. While Rep. Barbers emphasizes the investigation isn’t based on racism, he urges the Chinese community to “police their ranks” due to the past involvement of some Chinese nationals in illegal activities.

Unresolved Issues

The situation in Cagayan underscores the intricate nature of national security concerns, data transparency, and potential discrimination. A deeper investigation is imperative to ascertain the actual number of Chinese students, their motivations for choosing Cagayan, and whether any significant national security risks are present.

Filipino soldiers stand guard next to US aircraft at Lal-lo runway, in Cagayan province, northern Philippines, in August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE