Philippine immigration officials say they have arrested 324 Chinese nationals “allegedly engaged in cybercrimes and other illegal activities” in Palawan province, days after authorities picked up 277 Chinese suspects in the Manila area in connection with an online investment scam.
The 324 were taken into custody during raids in Puerto Princesa, the capital of the archipelagic province, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said in a news release. It said military troops backed up the bureau’s Intelligence Division during the operations on Monday.
The Chinese were rounded up from eight hotels and establishments in the popular tourist destination after being “caught in the act of doing their illegal activities,” according to the release. It did not give more specific information about the suspects’ alleged activities.
“They will undergo deportation proceedings for violating the conditions of their stay in the country and working here without permits. Initial reports indicate that most of these aliens are overstaying and undocumented,” Bureau of Immigration Chief Jaime Morente said.
The raiding teams also seized hundreds of laptops, cellular phones and gadgets.
“Many of [the suspects] were not able to show their passports or any travel documents,” said Jude Hinolan, an intelligence officer with the bureau.
The raids were carried out after the bureau received reports and complaints from local officials that many Chinese nationals were working in Puerto Princesa without proper papers, Acting BI Intelligence Chief Fortunato Manahan Jr. said.
The foreign suspects had been staying at hotels and inns in the area, and were under surveillance for weeks before the raids, Manahan said.
Last week, the bureau announced that it and other Philippine law enforcement agencies had arrested 277 Chinese nationals in Pasig city, near Manila, who were suspected of being involved in an online investment scam that targeted more than 1,000 people in China. The bureau said it coordinated that raid with authorities in China and Beijing’s embassy in Manila.
The nearly 300 suspects were to be handed over to Chinese authorities before being deported from the Philippines, the bureau said on Sept. 13.
The raids in Pasig city and Palawan took place amid an intensified crackdown by the Philippines on undocumented migrants who mostly work in online casinos that operate in the country and cater to Chinese.
In August, China’s foreign ministry called on Manila to ban online gaming involving Chinese citizens, as Beijing sought support in cracking down on cross-border gambling.
But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte refused to comply. He said the casino industry provided a new source of income for the Philippines and much-needed jobs for Filipinos.
Some 200,000 Chinese nationals work in the Philippines, mostly in the gaming industry, according to government data.
There would be no let up in the bureau’s campaign to against illegal aliens, “especially those who use the Philippines as a venue for illegal activities, particularly unauthorized online gaming activities, cyber fraud and investments scams that prey on unsuspecting victims who are mostly abroad,” immigration officials said in the statement issued after Monday’s raids in Palawan.