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Tansingco wants inter-agency action on foreign studes issue

Norman Tansingco
BI Chief Norman Tansingco calls for inter-agency action regarding foreign students. (JERRY S. TAN)

In the wake of the issue on the alelged rise of Chinese students in the country, Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco has called for urgent inter-agency action, saying he has in fact requested the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which chairs the inter-agency committee on foreign students (IACFS), to call for a high-level meeting for members to clarify the role of each agency in permitting foreigners to study in the country.

His request stems from recent concerns on the number of Chinese nationals studying in Tuguegarao, resulting in a call for probe by both House of Representatives and Senate.

The BI said that it reviewed its records and found that a total of 1,516 Chiense nationals have been granted student visas in Cagayan, all endorsed by a major Philippine university.

Reports show however, that as of April, only 485 are currently enrolled with only 96 onsite with student visas.

“The Philippine government has been promoting the country as a regional and global education hub. In fact, there are national campaigns that helped greatly helped boost the number of foreign students in the country,” said Tansingco.

In 2023, the BI has issued a total of 24,189 student visas to various nationalities. A total of 16,190 were issued to Chinese nationals all over the Philippines, majority of them are in the National Capital Region.

Chinese nationals remain the top source for foreign students in most countries. In the US, a total of 289,526 Chinese nationals were given student visas, while in Malaysia, around 130,000 were issued in 2022. In Thailand, more than 20,000 Chinese students were enrolled on the same year.

Tansingco said that the governing law on foreign students is Executive Order No. 285, s. 2000, which creates the IACFS chaired by CHED. Other members of the inter-agency are the BI, NBI, NICA, DFA, and DepEd.

Schools who accept foreign nationals as students are required to submit regular reports of their students to all IACFS agencies. The data is used by the BI who shall monitor their visa compliance, CHED who shall ensure compliance with education-related policies, and NBI and NICA who shall conduct investigations on suspicious activities.

“We have requested the high-level meeting to reiterate our previous requests for immediate joint inspections, and for it to become a regular conduct by the IACFS given new developments in national security concern. We also believe that it is high time that the inter-agency be active in matters of national security by including security assessment as a regular agenda in meetings,” he added.

Tansingco revealed that the BI has provided data on student distribution to members of the inter-agency for mapping to be utilized by NBI and NICA in their investigations against suspicious activities of foreign nationals.

He agreed that the activities of foreign students that might be inimical to the security of the State is worth looking into by government intelligence agencies, as it is necessary in ensuring national security.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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