Investigate China’s ‘soft invasion’ of Philippines: Pangilinan

October 28, 2020

ASIDE from the unresolved P40-billion “Pastillas” corruption issue at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan wants the Senate to also investigate, in aid of legislation, the national security implications of the entry of around four million Chinese into the country since 2017.

Pangilinan’s Proposed Senate Resolution 558 is a follow-up to the findings of the October 20, 2020 hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality.

“Given the lenient requirements for foreign national retirees and the seemingly unchecked entry of some 4 million Chinese nationals into the country, there is a need to look into whether this is an orchestrated ‘soft invasion’ of our country,” Pangilinan said in the proposed resolution.

“Nakakabahala ito, lalo na’t meron tayong isyu sa kanila sa West Philippine Sea,” the senator said.

That hearing revealed that then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre issued in 2017 Department of Justice Order 41 allowing Chinese nationals to enter the country not via visas issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), but by BI-issued visas-upon-arrival (VUA). Of the 4 million Chinese who have entered the country, 150,000 did so by VUA.

At the budget hearing of the Department of Tourism, the Philippine Retirement Authority disclosed that Chinese nationals comprise the biggest population of foreign retirees at nearly 40 percent or about 28,000, with retirees defined as young as 35 years old.

In his proposed Senate resolution, Pangilinan said China’s increased presence in the country has not only been limited to the millions of its nationals who have entered the country since 2017.

“In July 2020, the Philippine government protested the presence of more than a hundred Chinese vessels, which are believed to be part of China’s fishing militia, in Pag-asa Island and the West Philippine Sea,” Pangilinan said.

“Filipino fishermen in the area who are civilians and have no military training, unlike their Chinese counterparts, are subjected to threats and harassment. Moreover, the country’s natural resources are exploited,” he added.

Pangilinan said “soft invasion” concerns, which are rooted in investment and infrastructure projects funded by China, include debt exposure, geopolitical risks, and sovereignty issues.

“Soft invasion” is the term used by former intelligence chief of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet Captain Jim Fanell to describe China’s strategy of “invading” cash-strapped neighbors.

In an interview with the American television news program 60 Minutes aired November 2019, Fanell described China’s strategy in the South Pacific as a “soft invasion” and “expansionist”.

“The Chinese are coming in with soft power and lots of cash to buy out local officials, to gain access to ports and airfields and resources that give them a controlling monopoly in the islands,” the former US intelligence officer said.

“Ang Pilipinas ay para sa Pilipino. Huwag naman pasilaw sa pera ang iba sa ating mga opisyal at ipagpalit ang Pilipinas sa ilang pirasong pilak (The Philippines is for Filipinos. Some of our officials should not be blinded by money and exchange the Philippines for a few pieces of silver),” Pangilinan said.