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RP’s CHINESE STUDENT POPULATION NOTHING COMPARED TO MALAYSIA AND EVEN THE UNITED STATES

By: Bernie Ang

Instead of joining hands in promoting the Philippines as a regional and global education hub to ultimately help our economy, some of our official are busy scaring foreign students away.

This is by zeroing in on Chinese nationals who are legitimately studying in the country and merely believe in our teachers’ proficiency in the English language and the highly-affordable costs of education and living.

Repeatedly mentioning the Chinese students in the news as subjects of government intelligence efforts and even baseless accusations is sending down shivers in the spine not only among the Chinese student population but those of other nationals as well, who now fear that they may be the targets of similar action in the future should an issue involving their country crop up, no matter how irrelevant they are, as students, to the issue at hand.

No less than the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has stated that Chinese nationals remain as the top source for foreign students in most countries.

Even in the US, which some of our government officals expect to back us up in our maritime dispute with China, has given student visas to a total of 289,526 Chinese nationals in their own country.

Malaysia, which is also a claimant to the West Philippine, has issued the same kind of visa to around 130,000 Chinese nationals in 2022 alone.

Here in the Philippines, the BI, after reviewing its records, said that a total of only 1,516 Chinese nationals have been granted student visas in Cagayan and that they were all endorsed by a major Philippine university.

Reports show however, that as of April this year, only 485 are currently enrolled with only 96 onsite with student visas, the BI says.

As I have stated before, around 80 million students graduate from high school in China every year and of that number, only eight million can be accomodated in colleges and universities since they do not have enough institutions to cover all their high school graduates. This means that there are 72 million Chinese students from whom any country where they choose to pursue higher education can benefit in terms of tourism and education and of course, our overall economy.

Not only because of its proximity to China, the Philippines is one of the beneficiaries of the 72 million students searching for the right colleges or universities for them owing to their impression that our educational system offers proficient English learning and our people are generally friendly.

If by conservative estimates each student spends US$2,000 a year for their board and lodging and tuition fees alone, this would amount to US$144 billion in potential earnings for the Philippines.

It seems that the US and Malaysia are both reaping more benefits than the Philippines in this aspect.

Compared to over 286K Chinese students in the US and 130K in Malaysia, our 20K pales in comparison and yet here we are, shaking down the student community.

In the wake of the issue on the alleged rise of Chinese students in the country, Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco has called for urgent inter-agency action, saying he has in fact requested the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which chairs the inter-agency committee on foreign students (IACFS), to call for a high-level meeting for members to clarify the role of each agency in permitting foreigners to study in the country.

His request stems from recent concerns on the number of Chinese nationals studying in Tuguegarao, resulting in a call for probe by both House of Representatives and Senate.

In 2023, the BI has issued a total of 24,189 student visas to various nationalities. A total of 16,190 were issued to Chinese nationals all over the Philippines, majority of whom are in the National Capital Region.

Tansingco said that the governing law on foreign students is Executive Order No. 285, s. 2000, which creates the IACFS chaired by CHED. Other members of the inter-agency are the BI, NBI, NICA, DFA, and DepEd.

Schools who accept foreign nationals as students are required to submit regular reports of their students to all IACFS agencies.

The data is used by the BI whicho shall monitor their visa compliance, CHED which shall ensure compliance with education-related policies, and NBI and NICA which shall conduct investigations on suspicious activities.

Instead of driving these foreign students away which will spell huge losses for our economy and tourism, our government should focus its efforts on coming up with campaigns that would help greatly boost the number of foreign students in the Philippines.

That of course, is just my humble opinion and suggestion.

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