Sovereign shame

No government agency was able to provide the Senate with an accurate number of illegal Chinese workers, indicating that they are not being monitored.
Sovereign shame

The government should recognize the possibility that Chinese workers in the country are committing espionage amid the escalating territorial friction in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro raised the alarm, saying employees of mainly Chinese state firms may be engaged in potential "covert economic and information activities," including propaganda operations, to sway public opinion in favor of the mainland.

Among the workers on the watchlist are "the ones hired by Beijing's state-run enterprises involved in public infrastructure projects," according to Teodoro. The Department of National Defense said it is looking into clandestine dealings "happening in the background."

"It's the activities that we cannot see… that's what alarms us," the defense chief said. "The best way to weaken a country, rather than by an overt warlike function or disruption of [its] facilities, is really to take control of [its] internal economy, internal processes, and the like," Teodoro pointed out.

The records of Chinese migrants in the country are inadequate based on previous Senate hearings. No government agency was able to provide the Senate, for instance, with an accurate number of illegal Chinese workers, indicating that they are not being monitored.

Labor agencies have also failed to keep track of how many foreign workers are in jobs that, by mandate of the Constitution, should be for Filipinos only. Under the law, foreigners are only allowed to work in jobs that require highly specialized skills and where no Filipinos are deemed competent to do them.

During the Senate probe, it was also discovered that as many as 119,000 Chinese nationals who came to the country as tourists are now residents and have jobs in violation of labor regulations.

Chinese tourists, through some "gainful" means, were able to obtain special work permits from the Bureau of Immigration. They now work in very diverse areas such as Metro Manila, Clark, Subic, Cagayan and Cagayan de Oro.

In one of the inquiries, a Department of Labor and Employment official explained that the special permits were issued without the need for an Alien Employment Permit, or AEP, because the nature of the employment was temporary, lasting from three to six months.

The loose process, thus, has allowed foreign workers to enter the country practically unbridled. Senators questioned the discrepancy between the AEPs issued and the number of Chinese workers in the country.

Independent sources said that as many as 200,000 to 400,000 Chinese workers are in the country. Four different agencies issue different permits that make the situation worse.

The biggest insult by China is that its propaganda work against the Philippines and other opponents in the territorial conflicts is done in this country.

Facebook recently removed two networks of fake accounts that were spreading government propaganda, one originating in China and the other in the Philippines.

Taken down were 155 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, nine groups and seven Instagram accounts traced to China, and 57 accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts based in the Philippines.

Such operations breach Facebook's rules against "coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity."

The Chinese network used faces created through an AI technique known as GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). Facebook was able to trace the origins of the accounts because of their visual signatures.

"This form of AI is readily available online, and its use (or abuse) by covert operations has exploded in the last year," according to a report on the social media platform. Identified were a dozen GAN-generated images from the Chinese propaganda operation.

Teodoro, who has access to a wealth of information, in revealing the supposed operations being conducted by the Chinese in the country's backyard, virtually confirmed the problem has reached alarming proportions.

It would be easy for the government to keep track of foreign workers if only the appropriate agencies would resist the seduction of human smuggling. In accepting bribes to let the aliens skirt the law, these officials and functionaries have placed our national security at risk.

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