Villanueva says only DOLE should issue work permits to foreigners
Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday asked the Bureau of Immigration to leave the issuance of special work permits to foreigners to the Department of Labor and Employment ( DOLE).
In an interview at ANC, Villanueva said it is only the labor department who can determine whether a job can be handled by a Filipino worker.
“Our constitution states, Article 12, Section 12: preferential treatment- Filipino first. Article 40 of Labor Code- Filipino first. If there is no Filipino who is able, capable and willing to do the job, that’s the only time you gave it to a foreigner,” said Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee.
Villanueva said for the last three years, the labor department issued around 169,893 alien employment permit while the immigration released around 185,000 special work permit from January to November 2018.
“Here comes the problem: first things first, why would the Bureau of Immigration issue such work permits? Because the DOLE is the only agency in the government that can actually vet or has the capacity to vet whether or not this particular job can be offered to a foreigner,” said Villanueva.
“It has to stop. The DOLE should force themselves to make sure they do what they do best. They are the only who can vet,” he said.
Villanueva said they tried to make a solution to the problem by amending the general appropriations act (GAA) but unfortunately President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed it.
“I respect the decision of the president but I thought his advisers were wrong because the reason for being (veto) that they mention is that it’s part of their charter. They mentioned that particulatr provision in the charter… it is about issuing visa and collecting fees for the visa. Issuing work permit was never mentioned in the charter,” he explained.
Asked if he thinks Duterte is favoring the Chinese government, Villanueva admitted having that kind of idea but after meeting Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and investigating the matter, he thinks Duterte should just be briefed properly.
“I told them (Dominguez) about it, this is a very serious concern. Not just with respect to not paying taxes, it’s a security concern. Let’s face it… also health concern. These are the things that we need to do something. We have to make sure that we protect the interest of this nation, interest of the people,” he said.
He said it was the labor department who always says and claim in the previous committee hearing they are the only agency issuing work permits but when he asked the different agencies who is in charge in giving gaming employment licenses to foreigners no one admitted taking charge.
Based on their data, 90 percent of issuance of special work permit are tourists and some of them are working on offshore gaming operations, said Villanueva.
“It’s disappointing. One, we are being robbed of jobs supposed to be for our people. Two, they are coming here and their (job is) illegal, They only become legal by the help of few immigration officers, then three, they are not even paying taxes. So what are we gaining from this particular industry?,” said Villanueva.
“I mentioned Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) because there are the state’s...defender, regulator of all these initiatives. Unfortunately, when we asked them about these foreign workers, they would have no idea or no concrete data on where they are, what they are doing. In fact, we asked them and raised the issue of gaming employment license,'' said Villanueva.
''They gave these to hotels that operate gaming programs of Pagcor and yet foreign (companies) doesn’t have this. So I asked them and they could not answer,” he said.
Villanueva disagreed with the remarks of Ramon Tulfo, the government's special envoy to China. that Filipinos are lazy that’s why construction firms in the Philippines are hiring Chinese workers.
“I beg to disagree considering I came from Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). Again, what we saw here in Macapagl Boulevard in Pasay City where about 32 illegal Chinese construction workers were apprehended and arrested. They are holding tourist visas. They are doing a job that we know the Filipinos can do,” he said.
“I respect his opinion… the more important thing here is we have structure in government, mechanism to protect our people. To encourage our people to land jobs and to apply for jobs,” he said.
Villanueva clarified he is not against foreign workers as long as they are highly-skilled and their expertise can be shared to the Filipinos.
“I’m not totally against foreign workers. I welcome the influx of foreign workers as long as they are experts, highly skilled, and that’s what I’ve been pushing. We must have some sort of mechanism, the transport of knowledge that after a period of time, there will be able to transfer the knowledge, skills, and competency so that in the future, the Filipinos can actually do that job,” he said.
The senator said there was an inter-agency task force that will make the agencies scrutinize their system.
“The Bureau of Immigration is closely coordinating with Department of Labor and Employment. All of a sudden the DOLE people are saying they don’t have enough manpower to issue all these permits but on the side they are firm in saying they are the only agency who can vet,” he said.
“First things first, we have to look at our constitution which is the soul of our country,’ said Villanueva. Ella Dionisio/DMS