By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Nancy Binay has filed a resolution seeking a separate Senate inquiry into the government’s visa upon arrival (VUA) program for Chinese nationals.
Binay said there is a necessity to probe the VUA program amid concerns on the possible health risks and its propensity to encourage the proliferation of sex trafficking and prostitution in the country.
According to Binay, she believes the sudden proliferation of Chinese prostitution activities in the Philippines is tied to the explosive growth of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), online gaming companies based in the Philippines that cater to players in China where gambling is illegal.
The senator also said a Senate inquiry into this issue is necessary in the light of the country’s preparation and preventive measures against the novel coronavirus (nCoV).
“It is imperative to inquire and assess the current visa application process for Chinese nationals, taking into consideration the outbreak of the nCoV and the rise of Chinese-operated sex dens in the country and which calls for a more vigilant and tougher government regulation,” Binay said in the explanatory note of Senate Resolution No. 309.
Earlier, the Senate committee on women and children, chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, revealed how some Chinese POGO workers have resorted to ordering prostitutes online.
The “menu” of trafficked Chinese women and some Filipinas are posted in online message applications such as WeChat, a Chinese social media platform.
“The women are being ordered like ‘GrabFood’—there’s a menu, a price, then they will just arrive at the hotel or condominium of the client,” Hontiveros said.
Binay, however, noted the VUA policy was a department circular issued by then-justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II supposedly to allow Chinese nationals to stay in the Philippines for 30 days, with a possible extension up to a maximum period of six months.
It was also supposed to help boost tourism and foreign investments in the country, and to expedite the entry and admission of Chinese nationals in the country.
“Therefore, it is hereby resolved, directing the proper Senate committees, to conduct an inquiry and assessment, on the Visa Upon Arrival program for Chinese nationals, with the end view of ensuring that the (VUA) scheme would not pose health risks and facilitate proliferation of sex trafficking and prostitution in the country,” Binay said in the resolution.