Philippine authorities arrested more than 300 Chinese nationals suspected of involvement in an online investment scam and working without permits, the latest in a series of large-scale roundups this year of foreign workers mostly from China, immigration officials said Friday.
The raid in suburban Quezon City on Thursday night netted 342 Chinese citizens, the largest number of Chinese arrested at one time as part of a nationwide crackdown on undocumented foreign workers, the Bureau of Immigration said.
In a news release, Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Chinese were caught at Global Trade Center Building while working without visas and proper permits from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“This is another massive arrest by our Intelligence Division, in coordination with the Quezon City Police District-National Capital Region Police Office. This could not have been possible without their help,” he said.
Fortunato Manahan Jr., the bureau’s intelligence chief, said the company used several different names.
“We had reason to suspect that the company is a front for illegal cyber activities and investment scams,” Manahan said.
“We coordinated this operation with the Chinese government, which confirmed the company’s involvement in illegal activities, victimizing mostly their compatriots in China,” he said.
Immigration officers recovered thousands of mobile phones being used for online and phone scamming, according to Manahan.
In addition, the Chinese government “reportedly cancelled the passports of those involved, making them undocumented aliens and tagging them as fugitives,” the news release said.
September, October arrests
Previously, Philippine authorities deported 312 Chinese nationals in November who were among 512 foreigners arrested in October in the Manila suburb of Pasay city on suspicion of being involved in a similar online investment scam targeting people in China. Others arrested were from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan and Vietnam.
In September, officials arrested 277 Chinese nationals in metro Manila’s Pasig city over a similar online scam after receiving a tip from the Chinese Embassy, according to Morente. The next week, authorities arrested 324 in Palawan province.
Nearly 200,000 Chinese nationals are working in the country, mostly employed by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and other online casinos catering to Chinese nationals, businesses that are prohibited in Beijing, according to government records.
The influx of Chinese nationals into the Philippines has led to calls from nationalist groups to ban the activity, saying the presence of Chinese workers here was causing social problems along with soaring rental rates for office and commercial properties.
Earlier, Duterte’s defense chief, Delfin Lorenzana, expressed alarm over the influx of Chinese workers. He suggested casinos known to employ Chinese citizens could be used as a cover by Beijing to spy on Philippine military and security installations near the gaming businesses.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato, Philippines, contributed to this report.