Senators urge gov't agencies to crack down on illegal foreign workers
Senators on Monday called on government agencies to crack down on illegal foreign workers after a lot of Chinese nationals were being arrested for allegedly working in illegal online gambling companies.
"The incidents of illegal foreign workers entering our special economic zones revealed the grave disproportionality of Chinese workers to Filipino workers,” Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chairperson Senator Joel Villanueva said in a hearing.
Last November 22, 93 illegal Chinese workers were arrested in an illegal online gaming facility in Pasig City.
Weeks before that, 34 Chinese nationals were caught allegedly working in a construction site near SM MOA along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue.
On May 23, 2017, nine Chinese nationals and an Indonesian were caught reportedly operating in a dredging vessel loading lahar and black sand in Macolcol River, San Felipe, Zambales without a permit.
According to the Bureau of Immigration, 3.12 million Chinese citizens arrived in the Philippines since 2016.
The Department of Labor and Employment ( DOLE) revealed some Chinese who entered as tourists later obtain special working permits.
"A lot come in as tourists then later on convert their visas for work," Labor Undesecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad said.
Senator Grace Poe said some Chinese even entered the country using "fake Philippine passports" to work here.
Based on data submitted by DOLE, there were 115,652 AEPs ( alien employment permit) issued by the department to foreign nationals from 2015 to 2017 where almost half or 51,980 were issued to Chinese nationals, including those working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs
"In the first quarter of 2018, 21,320 alien employment permits were issued. There is indeed an upward trend," Lagunzad said.
"Once DOLE issues an alien employment permit, the foreign worker has to apply for a working visa from the Bureau of Immigration," he added.
The Bureau of Immigration admitted issuing Special Work Permits (SWP) to foreign workers without AEPs.
Villanueva said the problem on the influx of Chinese workers come from the process of DOLE and Bureau of Immigration.
In the hearing, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) said they have no record of the number of Chinese citizens working in
online gaming firms.
"It looks like the root of problem is the process of issuing AEP of DOLE. And on POGO, Senator Poe's suggestion is right to require the under study so that eventually they can give back the job to Filipino people that they are having now," Villanueva said.
Villanueva hit government agencies for saying issuance of of AEP is only done if there are no competent Filipinos who can do the job.
"If the Bureau of Immigration is saying that some of the Filipinos cannot speak Mandarin, then what is the Language Skills Institute of TESDA doing?," he said.
"We can train skills. There is nothing Filipinos can do that's why Filipino workers are in demand in the whole world," he added.
Villanueva said they are seeking to amend the Labor Code compelling employers to at least should have 80 percent Filipino workforce.
“We want to amend the Labor Code - through Senate Bill 1508, which is also part of today's agenda, to compel Filipino employers to ensure that at least, 80 percent of their collective workforce are Filipino citizens," he said.
He said the country needs this to ensure that "Filipinos are being prioritize in their own country.
"It hits me that it is not at all ironic that while we are allowing the illegal deployment of foreign nationals as workers here in the Philippines, our own people are forced to leave their families and work abroad to be victimized by fraudulent posting in Padborg, Denmark, for example, and elsewhere in the world," he said. Ella Dionisio/DMS