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New Arrivals: Numbers and Types

The influx of new Chinese migrants since the 1970s has brought fresh blood to the Chinese Filipino community. Chinese immigration since the 1970s can be divided into three periods. The earliest wave after 1975 was initiated by family reunion, after the Philippine government fully abolished the 1950 migrant quota for Chinese nationals in 1950, which had separated numerous Chinese families. The Chinese moved to the Philippines mainly to join their immediate relatives, such as their fathers, who might have remarried in the Philippines. Some joined more distant relatives. The promulgation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the control of the exit and entry of citizens in 1985 triggered another wave of migration to the Philippines. After the mid-1990s, immigrants without relatives in the Philippines joined friends and fellow villagers or fellow provincials. This can be seen as an expansion of the network formed during the first two stages.6

A large Chinese migrant community is forming as a result of the continuous inflow of migrants since the late 1970s. Researchers estimate that around 200,000 new Chinese migrants arrived during that period. It should be noted that the influx of Chinese migration to the Philippines has remained stable since the mid-2000s, and some Chinese migrants have chosen to go back to China (Landingin 2007; Li 2003; See 1997). Chinese form the biggest group of foreigners in the Philippines. The Bureau of Immigration reported that, among Philippine visa holders, there were 27,834 Chinese, as opposed to 111,923 foreign nationals as a whole, in February 2015.7

The Chinese nationals holding an immigrant visa or a permanent residence permit fall into four main groups. The first consists of those who were legalized and obtained permanent residence under the amnesty program. In 1988 the Philippines government initiated an amnesty program under Executive Order 314 to legalize those who had entered the Philippines before 1984. This program was suspended by Congress in 1989 after a three-month implementation. On February 24, 1995, the Republic Act 7919 was launched to grant legalized status to those who had entered the

Philippines before June 30, 1992. About 11,000 applicants were approved. These people then applied for permanent residence for their spouses and children under 18 years of age under the above two acts.8 However, many Chinese who moved to the Philippines after 1992 obtained permanent residence for themselves and their spouses or children by providing fake documents with the help oftravel agencies or Chinese local governments, or by bribing Philippine officials to issue them with fake immigration stamps or to destroy their records held by the Bureau of Immigration.

The second group is those who applied for permanent residence through the Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) and the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV).9 From 1987 to 2014, 5577 Chinese immigrants obtained a SRRV as principal holders and 7028 obtained one as spouses and dependents (under 21 years of age), topping all other countries at a rate of 33.63 %, as Table 8.1 shows.

The Special Visa for Employment Generation, which took effect in March 2009, is issued to qualified non-immigrant foreigners who agree to employ at least ten Filipinos in a lawful and sustainable enterprise, trade or industry. A foreigner must contract to engage in a viable and sustainable commercial investment or enterprise in the Philippines, to manage an enterprise, or to hire, promote and dismiss employees. Up to now, few Chinese have met this requirement or shown any interest in this type of visa. The Chinese who marry a Philippine citizen are also given immigrant visas. Some Chinese legitimate their status in the Philippines through bogus marriages.

Table 8.1 1987-2014 top ten nationalities enrollees, as of 31 December 2014

Nationality

Principal

Spouse and dependent

Total number

Percentage

1

Chinese (mainland)

5577

7028

12,605

33.63

2

Korean

3406

4813

8219

21.93

3

Chinese (Taiwan)

1711

2239

3950

10.54

4

Japanese

2262

758

3020

8.06

5

American

1378

427

1805

4.82

6

Indian

847

760

1607

4.29

7

Chinese (Hong Kong)

541

538

1079

2.88

8

British

696

189

885

2.36

9

German

383

142

525

1.40

10

Australian

357

110

467

1.25

11

Others

2277

1046

3323

8.86

The third group is those who have stayed in the Philippines without proper papers. According to a non-profit organization report, almost 70-80 % of the aliens deported each year are Chinese citizens (See 1997). This undocumented group consists of two main categories. The first includes people who overstay their visas. Some Chinese tourists or business people enter the county with valid visas and later overstay to work as entrepreneurs or employees. They tend to concentrate in Chinatown, where most Chinese migrants live, work or conduct their business. The Philippine government’s relaxation of controls on Chinese tourism and investment in 2005 helped boost the number of undocumented immigrants. The other main category consists of people who enter via unofficial channels. With the help of immigration officials, some Chinese migrants enter and depart through the international airport in Manila without official clearance. So the official data on the number of Chinese migrants in the Philippines does not give a true picture.

The fourth group includes those who hover between legal and illegal status. In the Philippines, those born in the Philippines acquire their citizenship by descent.10 Some Chinese migrants purchase Philippine citizens’ birth certificates to disguise their true nationality. However, they are deemed to be illegal despite having citizenship papers issued by the Philippine government.11

The third and fourth groups are more numerous than the first and second. The undocumented Chinese migrants in the Philippines are trying to legalize their status. My 2015 survey of board members of Overseas Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCCII) suggests that only 25 % hold tourist visas, while most hold a legal visa such as a SIRV or a SRRV, or obtained a permanent residence permit under an amnesty program, in either 1988 or 1992.

 
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