JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Monday the Department of Justice (DOJ) will recommend to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) be stripped of the responsibility to issue visas to Chinese nationals entering the country.
At a press briefing, Remulla said the issuance of visas for Chinese nationals should instead be transferred to the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global for proper handling and scrutiny of documents submitted.
“We are currently reviewing the visa issuing system and we will be recommending to the President to transfer the authority to issue visas for Chinese nationals to the VFS which has the capability to check the authenticity of the data submitted by those applying for visa,” Remulla stressed.
He said various governments have already tapped VFS to screen visa applicants.
VFS Global, founded 20 years ago, is an outsourcing and technology services company which offers consular services on behalf of governments and diplomatic missions worldwide.
“The issuance of a visa is a very clerical function. It is about submitting data that you are qualified to enter the country and then for us to validate if the data submitted is valid or not. It would be easy for VFS to look into this, to validate from Chin,a not unlike the DFA which has no capacity to do so,” Remulla pointed out.
Remulla noted that the influx of Chinese nationals in the country, some even carrying Philippine passports and legitimate government identification cards, has raised national security concerns amid the escalating tension between the two countries over the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).
He said the DOJ has received reports that there are Chinese nationals who have no legitimate reason to be issued visas yet managed to get one, including through illegal means.
“We really need to be extra vigilant because there are many undesirable things happening in our seas and inside our jurisdiction. We really have to be very careful,” Remulla warned.
Remulla said he has also ordered an investigation on the possible involvement of some travel agencies in facilitating the issuance of visas to Chinese nationals by submitting spurious documents.
Furthermore, the DOJ secretary said, he found out that these documents are being submitted to the legal department of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
He advised immigration officials involved in the scheme to start contemplating about leaving the agency.
“I am having this investigated because based on the information I received there are lawyers and travel agencies who are being used as a conduit for the entry of these individuals and most of those benefiting from these illegal activities are those coming from China,” he said.
In May 2021, the DFA inked an agreement with VFS Global on the Outsourcing of the Non-Sensitive, Non-Discretionary and Non-Complex Elements of Passport Renewal covering areas under the jurisdiction of Philippine Foreign Service Posts in the United Arab Emirates and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The DFA then said that similar arrangements can be made for other countries.
Remulla earlier asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate how some foreign nationals managed to acquire Philippine passports from the DFA and other government-issued identification cards.