SENATOR Joel J. Villanueva said he is proposing to remove the authority of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to issue temporary special working permits (SWPs) to foreigners.
The Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development on Thursday resumed its inquiry into the influx of foreign workers, especially Chinese nationals.
Mr. Villanueva, who chairs the committee, said the task of issuing work permits should be delegated to the Department of Labor and Employment, which issues long-term Alien Employment Permits (AEP).
The BI issues the SWPs, which are only valid for three months and can be extended for another three months.
The senator said the DoLE is the appropriate agency to check whether Filipino applicants are unavailable for jobs being given to foreigners.
“The DoLE really has the power and the capacity to vet these job opportunities,” he told reporters after the hearing.
“We are not undermining the authority of the Bureau of Immigration to issue visas, but work permits, as the name suggests, and alien employment permits (are) really the job of the Department of Labor and Employment,” he added.
During the hearing, Mr. Villanueva also noted that the 2019 national budget, which has yet to be signed by the President, has a provision that requires the BI to coordinate with the DoLE on allowing the entry of foreign workers.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said his department needs the cooperation of the BI on the issuance of work permits to foreign workers.
“We need the help of the BI… If we remove it from the BI, there might be a vacuum… If (tourists come in), they will tell BI, ‘we are going to work,’ so the BI will give them special working permit. When the person works, we hope he gets an AEP. That is why they’re given three to six months to get an AEP,” he said.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the agency has issued an order on January creating a “negative list” of jobs that automatically disqualifies applications for SWPs, pending the establishment of an interagency task force to address the influx of foreign workers in the Philippines.
Mr. Morente also said the BI increased its raids, which led to the arrest of several illegal foreign workers.
Mr. Bello said the proposed interagency task force gained ground after a high-level meeting was conducted to discuss the matter last Wednesday.
He said the meeting was attended Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCor) chair Andrea D. Domingo, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay, and BI representatives.
“There is an understanding that we will create an interagency committee headed by DoLE. And we’ll get a full inventory of all foreign workers with the end of view of regulating their work here, including the collection of taxes,” he told reporters. — Camille A. Aguinaldo