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Unions urge gov’t to follow rules on foreign workers

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PHILSTAR

LABOR GROUPS called President Rodrigo R. Duterte “irresponsible” for ignoring rules governing the employment of foreigners in the Philippines, particularly Chinese workers.

In a statement on Monday, Federation of Free Workers (FFW) Vice President Julius C. Cainglet said that Mr. Duterte’s statements are “irresponsible” with the president does not comprehend the impact on the Filipino work force.

“We have laws that govern employment of foreigners and yet there he goes giving a blanket authority to just allow them to work in the country without regard for our laws and without regard to Filipino workers,” Mr. Cainglet said.

On Sunday, Mr. Duterte said in a campaign speech that he cannot “kick out” Chinese workers who are in the country without the required permits, noting that beijing could expel the 300,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in China.

“(I) cannot just say, ‘Leave. I will deport you.’ What if the 300,000 are suddenly kicked out?,” he said in a speech on Sunday.

The influx of Chinese workers was discussed in a Senate hearing last week. Last year, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III said in a Senate hearing that Chinese workers often enter the Philippines using tourist visas.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition Spokesperson Renato B. Magtubo said in a statement on Monday that the President’s reasoning cannot be justified.

“Making an unfounded fear the basis of his argument not to implement our laws on employing foreign nationals… is a dereliction of duty on the part of the President and his labor secretary,” Mr. Magtubo said.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said that Chinese nationals should abide by the law if they are looking to work in the Philippines.

“(I)f there are specializations and skills unavailable in the labor market, these should be given to foreign workers who must apply for Alien Employment Permits (AEP) from DoLE and work permits from the Bureau of Immigration (BI). We clearly reiterate that TUCP is not against the entry of foreign workers, but of the adverse impact on our very own workers who are being deprived of potential employment and livelihood opportunities,” TUCP President and Congressman Raymond C. Mendoza said in a statement on Monday.

Mr. Mendoza added that DoLE and BI need to patch up flaws in the system for issuing work permits for foreign workers.

“There is no coordination between the DoLE and BI. And this is where the problem thrives. Each agency issues permits allowing foreigners to stay and work here using different criteria,” he said.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) “will take their cue” from the President but added that the entry of foreign workers will be monitored.

“The DoJ/BI will take the cue from the chief executive. I understand the President’s statement to mean that illegal aliens already in our country should be given an opportunity to comply with our immigration laws and thus legitimize their stay,” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told BusinessWorld.

“Based on news reports, the President has apparently given a signal to exercise some liberality. So I’ll discuss the government’s next moves with the BI,” he added.

Mr. Guevarra, on the other hand, said that the DoJ and the BI will continue to control the entry of foreign workers if they cannot prove that they have skills that cannot be filled by Filipinos.

“We shall ensure that measures to control the unmitigated entry into our country of unskilled and non-technical alien workers in the future shall continue to be strictly enforced,” he said, adding that these measures include devoting more resources for screening, monitoring, and intelligence operations.

The BI’s new and stricter rules, which will require foreign applicants to submit additional documents, in issuing special working permit (SWPs) and provisional working permits (PWPs) to foreigners intending to work in the country would also be another measure but “have yet to be adopted after due consultations with the DoLE (Department of Labor and Employment),” the justice secretary also said.

The BI issues special working permits to foreigners who plan to work in the country for six months while provisional working permits are issued to foreigners with pending applications for pre-arranged employment visas.

During an inquiry by the Senate committee on labor and employment development on Nov. 26, DoLE said that the BI issued SWPs to 119,840 foreigners from 2015 to 2017, most of which were given to Chinese who work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a Senate hearing on Feb. 21 that DoLE issued a more than 169,000 alien working permits, permits issued to foreigners working for more than six months, 85,486 of which were given to Chinese nationals.

Senator Joel J. Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, said the rules are there to protect jobs for Filipinos and the rights of the workers regardless of nationality.

“The bottom line is enforcement of laws to protect workers’ rights and our Filipino first policy. There are illegal Filipino workers abroad and we should aim to help them become legal workers. And it is the same as what we are doing here. We want legal workers,” he said in a text message.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said foreigners must be subject to deportation as a consequence for violating Philippine laws.

“Deportation is a consequence if laws are violated by foreigners,” Mr. Sotto told reporters in a text message.

Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan said the government “should not be afraid of China” and should fear instead the anger of unemployed Filipinos while special treatment is given to Chinese workers.

“Uphold the rule of law and without fanfare deport these illegals. The administration should not be afraid of China in the face of hundreds of thousands of their citizens working here illegally. What it should fear is the anger of millions of our people who remain jobless while we give special treatment to these Chinese illegals,” he said in a statement on Monday.

The Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development has been conducting hearings into the influx of foreign workers. Senators have raised concerns that the jobs the Chinese nationals were filling deprived Filipinos of employment opportunities. — Gillian M. Cortez, Vann Marlo M. Villegas, and Camille A. Aguinaldo

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