Arrival of almost 28,000 young Chinese ‘retirees’ alarms senators
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators have expressed alarm over the arrival of almost 28,000 Chinese tourists who were allowed to enter the country as retirees, saying this poses a security threat for the Philippines.
During the Senate budget briefing of the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Monday, Sen. Richard Gordon asked the DOT led by Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to review its policies allowing in as retirees Chinese who are 35, which, he said, is “soldiers’ age.”
“They (Chinese) choose the Philippines [as destination] because they can go back and forth without visa. With a retirement visa, they can have multiple visa. That is dangerous. I didn’t know that. I’m disturbed by it,” Gordon said.
He made the statement on responses made by Bienvenido Chy, general manager of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), an attached agency of the DOT.
According to Chy, present PRA policies allow the entry of retirees age 35 and up, with at least $50,000 (about P2.5 million) cash on hand.
Sen. Nancy Binay wondered whether the PRA has sufficient funds to monitor the foreign retirees and make sure that they are not taking jobs away from Filipinos.
“My concern is the high number of Chinese retirees. I don’t know if you have the budget to monitor that these are not actually working in [Philippine offshore gaming operations] because if their demographics is 35 years, the probability of them working is high,” Binay said.
PRA records showed that about 28,000 Chinese, or about 40 percent of all foreign retirees, have been allowed entry into the country, followed by 14,200 Koreans.
“I don’t have a problem with Korea, but we have a problem with our neighbor (China) and 35 years old is soldiers’ age,” Gordon said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva also raised concern over the PRA data, as about 6,700 illegal Chinese workers were arrested last year by the Department of Labor and Employment.
“Most of them came here with the intention of becoming tourists in the country and then afterward, they’ll be working illegally,” he said.
National security concern
Other foreign retirees in the country consist of about 6,100 Indians, 4,850 Taiwanese, 4,000 Japanese, 3,700 Americans, 1,870 Hong Kong Chinese, 1,600 British, 800 Germans, 750 Australians and about 4,500 from other nationalities, according to the PRA.
Gordon said the large number of Chinese retirees raises a “national security concern.”
“Their number is equal to 27 (Army) regiments; that’s dangerous. Why would they retire here at 35?” he said.
Gordon urged the PRA board to review its current policies on allowing the entry of retiring foreigners.
“I suggest Secretary Puyat, you better look into this very rapidly and give us a formal report on this,” the senator said.
Gordon said the Senate committee on tourism should also conduct an inquiry with the aim of amending the law and to attract more of the old population from other countries, such as Japan and the United States.
“Retirees, as you know, retire at the average of 56 to 60, to 65 years old,” Gordon said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.