By Zaldy De Layola

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (Photo courtesy of the House Press and Public Affairs Bureau)

MANILA – Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Monday called on Malacañang to repeal former president Joseph Estrada’s Executive Order 285 which empowers the Bureau of Immigration to convert tourist visas into student visas.

Under EO 285, an inter-agency committee on foreign students was created, chaired by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and Department of Education (DepEd) as members.

“In today’s setting, this particular power by the BI can be abused. This arbitrary power to convert visas is the worst legalized scheme that can be used by unscrupulous personnel for monetary gain,” Barbers said in a statement.

“The 16,200 student visas that the BI granted to Chinese nationals in 2023 is simply unacceptable. Never mind if other countries grant more, we should never use that as our yardstick given our tense relationship with China,” he said.

He said power should be reserved to the DFA, which alone possesses the expertise to determine whether the foreigners asking that their tourist visas be changed into student visas is eligible or not.

Several lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate, including Barbers, are asking a probe on the increasing number of Chinese students in the country, particularly in sensitive areas like Cagayan where military bases are situated. (PNA)