'Filipino first': Senate resumes probe on Chinese workers influx

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2019 11:57 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2019 01:38 PM

A Chinese flag is flown along Manila bay during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Manila in November 2018. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATED) -- The Senate on Thursday resumed its inquiry into the influx of mainly Chinese foreign workers in the Philippines, with Sen. Joel Villanueva leading the investigation touting the constitutional guarantee on preference for Filipino workers.

Villanueva said mechanisms should be in place to ensure that Filipinos get hired in emerging industries. Fast-growing offshore gaming operations in the Philippines hire Chinese nationals because they speak Mandarin.

"Sagrado po sa atin ang Section 12, Article 12 of the Constitution that guarantees preference of Filipino labor sa anumang trabaho. Pilipino muna bago dayuhan," he said.

(Section 12, Article 12 of the Constitution is sacred. It guarantees preference for Filipinos in any job. Filipino first before foreigners.)

"Wala ho tayong problema sa pagpasok ng foreign workers sa bansa. Siguruhin lang natin tama 'yung proseso, maayos, hindi mangbubuhos ng taho sa ating kapulisan, hindi mabalitaang nangchop-chop, nanuntok ng Pilipina sa isang bar."

(We have no problem with the entry of foreign workers but they should go through the correct process. They shouldn't splash our policemen with taho, figure in chop-chop incidents or threaten a Filipina at a bar.)

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, was referring to a recent incident wherein a Chinese woman working in the Philippines splashed taho or soy bean custard on the face of a policeman.

The woman, a 23-year-old fashion design student, allegedly insisted on entering a train station with her unconsumed drink in spite of a ban on liquids on the train.

Villanueva said there appeared to be a lack of coordination among government agencies on the entry of foreign workers. Some immigration personnel could be on the take, he said.

HALF OF FOREIGN WORKERS ARE CHINESE 

The Department of Labor and Employment issued some 169,000 alien employment permits (AEPs) from 2015 to 2018, said agency chief Silvestre Bello III. 

Of the total AEP holders, 50 percent or 85,496 were Chinese and 35 percent were involved with administrative and support services, including those concerned with offshore gaming, he told lawmakers. 

AEPs are different from special working permits issued by the Bureau of Immigration for foreign nationals who will be in the country for less than 6 months, like artists staging concerts or players drafted for the basketball league.

Some 185,000 special working permits were issued in the last 11 months, said Villanueva.

The labor department has no power to deport workers with special working permits and jobs that can be done by Filipinos, said Bello. 

"In reality, 'pag may nakita kaming ganyan, hanggang tingin lang kami (if we see something like that, all we can do is look). We have no police authority," he said. 

"If the Congress will give us the authority to immediately deport or close the business establishment hiring this guy, then we will do that," he added. 

Bello said he wants to consult Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on revoking a 2005 DOLE order that gave the immigration bureau authority to issue special working permits.

Concerned agencies are also finalizing the creation of a task force that will centralize all activities concerning foreign nationals, while DOLE is studying reducing the maximum 2-year validity of alien employment permits, he said.