MANILA - Sen. Joel Villanueva on Thursday questioned the need to import laborers for the government's massive infrastructure push.
As the Senate held a hearing on the influx of Chinese workers in the country, Villanueva challenged claims that there were not enough skilled Filipino workers for the infrastructure projects being undertaken all over the country.
Villanueva, who heads the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) produced 234,534 graduates in construction and related fields.
He also denied claims that most skilled workers choose to work abroad instead of remaining in the country.
Villanueva, who headed TESDA under the Aquino administration, said only 2.52 percent of the agency's graduates choose to work abroad, while 81.82 percent work within their province.
"So, hindi po totoong walang natira, napakarami pong natitira," Villanueva said in a statement.
(So it's not true that there are no skilled workers left, there are many left.)
He added that TESDA alloted 25 percent of its Training for Work Scholarship Program budget for skills training on construction-related qualifications to boost enrollees in 62 construction-related training regulations.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said that his administration's massive infrastructure push was facing labor shortage problems.
"Itong 'Build Build Build' medyo atrasado. Walang trabahante," Duterte said during the proclamation rally of PDP-Laban.
The Philippine Statistics Authority said that there were 2.2 million unemployed Filipinos and 5.5 million underemployed in October last year.
"Bottomline: may number po tayo, may sapat na skilled workers sa Pilipinas. Kaya ang tanong, bakit ipinamimigay sa mga dayuhan ang mga trabaho?" Villanueva said.
(Bottomline: we have the numbers, we have enough skilled workers in the Philippines. The question is: Why are we giving away these jobs to foreigners?)
"Para kanino po ba talaga ang trabahong dala sa construction industry ng Build Build Build Program – sa mga Filipino workers o para sa mga Chinese workers?
(For whom are the construction jobs under the Build, Build, Build Program -- for Filipino workers or Chinese workers?)
China is funding about a third of the 75 flagship projects under the Build Build Build program.
From 2015 to 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued some 169,000 alien employment permits, said labor chief Silvestre Bello III.
Fifty percent of these permits or 85,496 went to Chinese nationals, he told lawmakers.