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Duterte to study removal of 'visa on arrival' privilege for foreigners

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Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr makes the suggestion after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr raised security concerns over the surge in the number of Chinese working in the Philippines

ANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will consider the suggestion of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr to stop granting foreigners visas upon arrival, Malacañang said on Thursday, August 1.

"The President will consider the proposal of the Secretary and if we don't hear anything from him, that means that will be the policy of the government," said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday, August 1 during a news conference.

Locsin made the suggestion through a tweet on Wednesday, July 31, after National Security Advisor Hermogenes Esperson Jr voiced concern over the influx of Chinese working in the Philippines.

"We need to put an end to visas upon arrival; all visas should be issued by consular offices after vetting. We must take extra care in outsourcing any part of the visa application process, picking only the most reputable worldwide," Locsin said.

Esperon earlier said he saw the large number of Chinese coming to work in the country, many of them illegally, as a threat. He added that there was a need to be "cautious" when foreigners come in, regardless of nationality, "and their intent is not clear."

Panelo on Thursday also echoed the concerns of Esperon when asked if the Palace also saw Chinese workers as a security threat.

"Ang importante diyan, paano nakakapasok 'yan nang hindi natin nalalaman.'Yan ang mas delikado diyan (What's important is, how do they enter without us knowing? That's more dangerous)," said Panelo.

But the spokesman said Chinese nationals who are in the country illegally can just be "expelled" by the government for violating immigration laws.

The Duterte administration has tried to cultivate warm ties with China in order to reap economic rewards, even if surveys consistently show that many Filipinos trust China the least among nations.

Thousands of Chinese workers are employed by Philippine Online Gambling Operations (POGOs) which are supposed to be regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). (READ: How China’s online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila)

Insiders estimated that there are "easily" around 100,000 to 250,000 Chinese employed in POGOs. Senator Joel Villanueva had accused Pagcor of not properly implementing regulations, leading to a "loss in government income and opportunities for Filipinos."

There have been cases when Chinese workers who come to work in the Philippines are poor and exploited by their employers. They are also exposed to racism amid tensions between China and the Philippines.

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