THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the government has obtained an undertaking from China to prioritize Filipino workers in all China-assisted infrastructure projects.

“It was an undertaking by our Chinese counterparts that the workers for all of these, not just in the PNR (Philippine National Railways)-Bicol, but all of our China-ODA (Official Development Assistance) funded projects will be Filipinos and this is why we are establishing a training facility upfront,” said DoTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan during the oversight committee hearing on the agency’s expenditures Monday.

Mr. Batan said that the agreement was made during the recent visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and other government officials, including Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, to Beijing for the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

The projects funded by China through official development assistance are the Philippine National Railway (PNR) line to Bicol, the Subic-Clark Railway Project, and the Mindanao Railway Project.

During the Beijing meeting, Mr. Batan said that a training school for construction workers will be established in Bicol to “speed up” the construction of the railway project.

“It was agreed with our Chinese counterparts that in order for us to speed up the construction… we will be establishing a training school for our construction workers and our local workers will be working on the project,” said Mr. Batan.

He also noted that the Chinese government will only bring Chinese nationals to work on the “highly-technical” requirements of the projects.

“They will be only be bringing Chinese nationals for the highly technical requirements of the projects and they will pay taxes accordingly,” said Mr. Batan.

The agreement for the P175 billion railway development project was signed in November and aims to cut the travel time from Manila to Bicol to under five hours from the usual 13 hours by road. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras