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Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III JOSEPH B. VIDAL/SENATE SMU

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on Saturday said government officials should be more careful in issuing statements on the reported jump in the number of Chinese students in Cagayan, the northern province in Luzon facing Taiwan and host to an airport and a naval station where American military forces are granted access.

In a radio interview, Pimentel pointed out the conflicting figures on the number of foreign enrollees in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province, which was first raised by Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara.


READ: Cagayan schools: ‘Baseless’ to say Chinese students threaten PH security


Lara claimed there were more than 4,500 Chinese students presently attending classes in one private university alone.

However, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it only issued a total of 1,516 student visas to Chinese nationals in Cagayan last year.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said only 400 Chinese students were attending physical classes in Cagayan since the school they were enrolled in was still implementing distance learning.

“It seems that the facts [presented to the public] are wrong. That’s why I’m also careful in echoing the allegations,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said it would be better for the Senate to hold a public hearing on the issue to help ascertain the actual number of Chinese enrollees and to review the regulations of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on the matter.

READ: Suspicious students in Cagayan


Congressional inquiry

Fellow opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros had already filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the influx of the foreign students. Two similar resolutions were also filed in the House of Representatives.

“Let’s get the facts straight so that we will know the real situation,” Pimentel said.

“It’s better to have a hearing so that we can directly ask the private school concerned and the CHEd about the number of foreign enrollees and the tuition fee they are paying,” he added.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, said Tuguegarao City Mayor Maila Ting sent him a letter on Saturday denying the allegations that thousands of Chinese students have invaded their city.

“[Tin] said they are actually promoting Tuguegarao as a center of education,” Tolentino said.

He added he would send a copy of the mayor’s letter to BI and CHEd to help them in their respective investigation.

‘Dangerous, unfortunate’

Civic leader Teresita Ang See described the “Sinophia and racism” that emerged from the issue as “dangerous and unfortunate.”

“The baseless and deliberate fanning of negative news on ‘influx of Chinese students’ serves only to exacerbate the ongoing geopolitical tensions arising from our maritime conflict with China,” Ang See said in a statement during a media forum on Saturday.

She called out politicians, opinion makers, the military and police who all “rode on the issue” without checking the facts first.

Ang See also criticized the CHEd for saying there was a “significant number” of Chinese students at St. Paul University in Tuguegarao without contextualizing that it was the only university given authority by the commission and the BI to accept foreign students.

In a joint statement released earlier this week, concerned colleges and universities denied the reports on the influx of Chinese students.

“The current foreign student enrollment at St. Paul University Philippines in Tuguegarao City is 486 graduate students as of April 17, 2024, which consists of various nationalities (Americans, Chinese, Indonesians, Japanese and Vietnamese),” they added.

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Ang See stressed the reports came on the heels of the tripartite summit between the United States, Japan and the Philippines, as well as the “Balikatan” exercises.

TAGS: Aquilino Pimentel III, Cagayan, Chinese students

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