The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, using its official Twitter account, made a rare tongue-in-cheek remark questioning a senator’s claim about an alleged Chinese soldiers’ immersion mission in the Philippines.
At a Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the anomalies involving Chinese nationals and the Philippine offshore gaming firms or POGOs last March 5, Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised the concern on the Chinese soldiers’ supposed immersion mission. He said the information came from a reliable source.
The Chinese Embassy’s response was: “Is the Senator testing the intelligence of the Philippine people?”
Is the Senator testing the intelligence of the Philippine people? 😱
— ChineseEmbassyManila (@Chinaembmanila) March 5, 2020
The account left this question as a response to a tweet of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin, who shared an article citing Lacson’s claims.
“3,000 Chinese soldiers on ‘immersion mission’ in Philippines?” Locsin tweeted.
Lacson also replied to this, saying that the details he provided during the Senate hearing is only “fairly accurate,” therefore still needs further “validation.” He claimed that he trusts his source for it, though.
“That’s what my ‘source’ who used to give me some fairly accurate info told me so I have no reason to doubt his reliability as a ‘source’,” Lacson said.
“The intel info itself needs validation. In the intelligence parlance, this maybe classified A6,” he tweeted.
That’s what my ‘source’ who used to give me some fairly accurate info told me so I have no reason to doubt his reliability as a ‘source’. The intel info itself needs validation. In the intelligence parlance, this maybe classified A6.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) March 5, 2020
Lacson claimed that around 2,000 to 3,000 members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have entered the country as tourists or workers of POGOs. The PLA is China’s armed forces and considered to be the world’s largest military army.
These Chinese nationals are also purportedly on “immersion missions” and on other unknown purposes.
The lawmaker did not mention any details about his source.
“The intelligence community should exert extra effort to gather information in this regard,” Lacson said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, for its part, assured that it will immediately validate this information and considered this a serious concern.
“I have my staff for intelligence to confirm said reports in coordination with other relevant agencies of government,” Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., AFP chief of staff, said.
Foreign troops are not allowed to enter the country, provided by the 1987 Constitution, following the expiration of the 1991 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States.
In Section 25 of the main charter, it is stated that:
“After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires.”
Crimes involving the offshore gaming industry
POGOs, the industry which emerged after Chinese President Xi Jinping banned them in China’s mainland, have been under fire recently following a series of alleged crimes involving their Chinese workers and employers.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros recently found a sex trafficking network via messaging apps Telegram and WeChat’s group chats catering to Chinese members of these groups.
A victim of this scheme earlier testified at the Senate hearing probing this illegal business.
The Philippine National Police’s anti-kidnapping group also recorded at least 58 kidnapped Chinese nationals in 2019.
Colonel Joel Saliba, spokesperson of the PNP anti-kidnapping group, said that most of these are due to casino-related activities.
Moreover, the Bureau of Customs also reported an estimated $370 million or ₱18.8 billion brought into the country by alleged two groups of foreign syndicates during the same year.
One of these groups supposedly involved Chinese nationals, the customs agency said.
These incidents, including the COVID-19 epidemic that originated from China, contributed to the rise of anti-Chinese sentiments in the country.
The Chinese Embassy expressed opposition against such views. It said defended its citizens saying the controversies surrounding the online gaming firms are only “isolated” cases.
“Individual illegal and criminal cases involving Chinese citizens are only isolated incidents and cannot represent the whole picture of China-Philippines relations,” it said on Facebook.