17 Chinese selling farm produce in Divisoria arrested
Aling Lilia, who sells apples, tiny oranges and other fruits in Divisoria, Manila, has been complaining that business has not been as lucrative as it used to be a few years back.
She said this could have been due to the steep rise in the prices of goods. But the 56-year-old grandmother also blamed the entry of some Chinese nationals whom Filipinos like her have to compete against in Divisoria.
“They have been there for so long. They have been taking away huge profits that we poor Filipinos are supposed to be benefiting from,” Aling Lilia told the Inquirer.
That was why the fruit vendor from Batangas was overjoyed when she learned that 17 Chinese nationals—11 men and six women—were arrested on Monday afternoon by Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents who caught them selling produce without permits.
“I hope the authorities conduct operations everyday because there are still a lot more illegal foreign traders like them in Divisoria,” she said.
In a statement, the BI said the Chinese nationals were arrested during a raid while they were selling garlic, onions and other produce along Sto. Cristo Street in Divisoria and taken to the BI detention center at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
“They are all [set] for deportation proceedings, all working without permit,” said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval.
According to her, the Chinese nationals are in the country as tourists who are limited to activities related to health, business meetings or leisure. Since they were caught selling goods, they had violated the conditions of their stay, Sandoval said.
The BI raid stemmed from complaints by vendors in the area who reported that there were foreigners working illegally and openly selling retail items to the public.
“We were initially targeting one individual but upon arriving at the scene, we saw [these] foreign nationals selling products. They were selling on the sidewalks, out in the open. They most likely do not have permits for their stores, nor are paying proper taxes,” the BI said in a statement.
Apart from working illegally, Sandoval said there were also concerns that the illegal foreign vendors rob small Filipino entrepreneurs of livelihood opportunities.
“Of course, we don’t want illegal aliens taking away jobs and livelihood meant for our fellow Filipinos,” she said.
Lawmakers have also sounded the alarm on the influx of thousands of suspected illegal Chinese workers, mostly in online gaming operations and other jobs where ordinary Filipinos could otherwise be employed.
Sandoval said the country’s Immigration Act prohibited foreign visitors from working without a valid work permit or visa.
The law says aliens who engage in “gainful activity” without the proper documents will be deported and banned from reentering the country.
The BI agents had initially rounded up 20 individuals but three were released after presenting genuine passports that proved they were Filipino citizens, Sandoval said.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente warned foreigners not to take advantage of the Christmas season to sell their wares.
“Do not attempt to try to earn off the holiday rush through illegal means. Foreign nationals must comply with our laws, lest face deportation,” he added.
The raid was part of a series of operations targeting illegal aliens in the country, Sandoval said.
“The commissioner has ordered the strengthening of intelligence gathering to ensure that we catch these illegal aliens that blatantly disregard our laws,” she said.
She pointed out that the information received from concerned citizens has resulted in many arrests.
The BI has made numerous arrests of undocumented Chinese nationals selling retail items at a shopping mall in Divisoria.