Trojan war tactics | Inquirer Opinion

Trojan war tactics

/ 05:15 AM April 12, 2024

Hardly have most people digested the national security implication of the recently disclosed alleged “gentleman’s agreement” between former president Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, when another serious cause for concern was brought up by Sen. Nancy Binay.

In a statement last weekend, the senator asked the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) to put more security measures in place and tighten the vetting process before granting applicants a special resident retiree visa (SRRV).

“What’s particularly alarming is the PRA policy of allowing Chinese SRRV applicants who are 35 years old, an age that can be categorized as ‘soldier’s age,’” Binay said, noting that “Visa fraud and fake identities adversely impact national security.”

‘Chinese mafia’

Binay’s call to the PRA comes after four Chinese men, suspected of being behind the distribution of fraudulently acquired government-issued identification cards and documents, were arrested in Palawan on March 19. A so-called “Chinese mafia” reportedly farms out the illegally obtained documents to undesirable aliens and trafficking victims, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.


“These foreign nationals use Philippine documents to avoid inspection, buy property, or even interfere in politics,” BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said, adding that the IDs seized by operatives include driver’s licenses, postal IDs, and birth certificates. There were at least 10 arrests involving fake Filipinos who presented authentic Philippine documents in 2023, the BI said in its report.

The latest suspects are holders of retirees’ visas, Binay pointed out, adding that as previously mentioned, many Pogo (Philippine offshore gaming operator) workers also reportedly happen to have such visa.

Retirement haven

The SRRV entitles its holders to reside during their lifetime in the Philippines, and allows them certain privileges, among them being exempt from securing an Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card; the ability to work and study, and buy property here; access to PhilHealth, and tax exemptions on pension and other foreign-earned annuities.

The visa is issued by the BI upon endorsement by the PRA, which was created in July 1985, by former president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., to promote the Philippines as a retirement haven and strengthen its foreign exchange position.


To qualify for the visa, foreign nationals must maintain a sizeable dollar deposit in any PRA-accredited bank in the Philippines or an equivalent active investment, with the amount depending on the type of SRRV package being applied for. These include a visa for retired armed forces officers, former Filipinos and their families residing abroad, and pensioners aged 35 and above.

According to PRA data, there are 77,481 foreign retirees in the Philippines, with mainland Chinese accounting for almost half, or 29,356.


‘Investor-class immigrants’

“What is the monitoring mechanism of the PRA to check if these ‘retirees,’ together with those who pose as ‘investor-class immigrants,’ are really legit?” Binay asked.

The senator’s fears are well-founded, given the escalation of the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) between the Philippines and China despite a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling affirming Philippine sovereignty in the area. China’s response to the Philippines’ claim goes beyond aggressive maneuvers, the continuous building of military infrastructure on disputed islands, and the use of military ships to swarm the WPS. As an adversary, China has shown that it is not above using devious means to undermine the Philippines’ claim and compromise its leadership.

Recall as well reports that Chinese nationals have been recruited into the Philippine Coast Guard, the country’s frontline force against China’s incursions in the WPS, which alas speaks of how complacent—or complicit?—the former administration was. Just as worrisome as the increasingly frequent attacks on Philippine government websites that had been traced to parties based in China is a recent ad recruiting “part-time military consultants,” preferably former military or government personnel, that a digital expert had also traced to China.


Just how diligently does the PRA implement the screening process that includes a police and National Bureau of Investigation clearance before the retiree visa is granted? What controls are in place to prevent the SRRV from being exploited by dubious parties?

With our adversary using all manner of subterfuge to blend in and possibly conquer from within, we can’t be too careful.

For a start, the BI said it was willing to provide data on previous interceptions, trends, and possible arrests, if needed by investigators. It would also continue its “strict immigration formalities for both arriving and departing foreigners,” and “[monitor] aliens residing and sojourning in the country.”

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As it should. Hopefully, the PRA would be as thorough and conscientious.

TAGS: gentleman's agreement, opinion

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