MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Wednesday said Beijing is coordinating with Philippine authorities in cracking down on crimes committed by Chinese nationals.
The embassy, in a statement, said it has been successful in combating illegal activities in cooperation with Philippine agencies.
"The Chinese government attaches great importance to combating all kinds of illegal and criminal activities and has been maintaining close cooperation with the relevant agencies of Philippine government on cracking down transnational crimes, which has produced fruitful results," it said.
It also said it will continue to cooperate with the Philippine government to safeguard the rights of its citizens.
"The Chinese Embassy has always been committed to safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines and has been providing consular service and protection for them to the best of its ability. The Embassy is willing to continue to strengthen communication and cooperation with the Philippine side in this regard," the embassy added.
It also claimed that crimes and illegal activities involving Chinese nationals are "isolated" cases.
"The Chinese Embassy firmly opposes any irresponsible remarks based on fake news and condemns any groundless allegations against China out of ulterior political motives. Individual illegal and criminal cases involving Chinese citizens are only isolated incidents and cannot represent the whole picture of China-Philippines relations," it said.
Lawmakers are currently investigating an alleged bribery scheme involving Bureau of Immigration personnel and Chinese nationals.
The bureau has been under public scrutiny after opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros revealed the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme.
Under the alleged scheme, some Chinese nationals who illegally work at Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs pay Immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies P10,000 in grease money rolled in bond paper—similar to the look of the local milk candy.
Hontiveros, in a Senate inquiry Monday, also revealed some Chinese-run travel agencies in the Philippines dangle local passports, birth certificates and bank accounts to their compatriots on WeChat, in another criminal racket.
The agents also peddle "de-listing from blacklists and airport release if barred entry" to Chinese tourists planning to travel to the Philippines.
On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Gordon also said 47 individuals "smuggled" into the country some US$446 million (P22.69 billion) in cash through airports in a span of 5 months, noting that Chinese nationals brought in nearly half of the "illegal money" through commercial flights.
Chinese individuals brought $210 million (P10.5 billion) from September 2019 to February 2020, while the rest of the cash were brought in by Filipinos, Gordon said.
Meanwhile, Philippine immigration officials revealed in January that they arrested 421 international criminals, mostly Chinese nationals, in 2019.
Of this number, 324 are Chinese nationals, majority of which were involved in a large-scale investment scam involving their fellow Chinese nationals.
Police data also showed gambling-related incidents of kidnapping involving Chinese more than doubled to 38 in 2019 from 16 in 2018.
The Chinese embassy earlier said China has identified its citizens suspected of committing telecommunication fraud abroad.