Alunan, Hilbay: Corruption linked to influx of Chinese workers to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Four senatorial were asked how Filipinos can be protected by the influx of Chinese workers to the country, as CNN Philippines hosted its second senatorial forum at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City Sunday.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and former Interior Secretaries Raffy Alunan and Mar Roxas, gave their opinions on the issue, all saying jobs meant for Filipinos should be given to Filipinos.

Hilbay said corruption seems to be linked to the arrival of these foreign workers as many of them come to country illegally.

"Hindi natin sila nata-track, hindi natin alam kung bakit sila nandito in the first place. And that is a problem that is of paramount importance — the corruption that is associated with the influx of Chinese workers," he said.

[Translation: We can't track them, we don't even know why they're here in the first place. And that is a problem that is of paramount importance — the corruption that is associated with the influx of Chinese workers.]

Alunan said the country's gatekeepers were "easily bought."

"I think that there are people that are allowed inside the country because of corruption. And that's because our gatekeepers — like the Bureau of Immigration — are easily bought. There's also a lot of human smuggling going on, our borders are very porous, and we don't have enough gatekeepers to prevent from people coming in," he said.

It falls on the government, he said, to upgrade its ability to secure the country and protect the people.

Roxas, meanwhile, said there were enough skilled workers in the country to fill the jobs going to Chinese workers.

"Ano bang pinag-uusapan natin dito? Sa construction, pagkakarpintero, pagtutubero, pagiging mason — kaya ng Pilipino 'yan. Maraming Pilipino ang may kayang gampanan ang trabahong 'yan," he said.

Both former Interior secretaries also addressed the issue of Chinese workers involved online gambling operations in the country.

Alunan said, "We may not have the kind of expertise for online gambling once it comes to translation, to translators, but there is a problem — and even China itself realizes that — it has clamped down on online gambling to the detriment of the Malaysian economy. And pretty soon, I expect China to clamp down on online gambling in the Philippines as well.

Roxas added, "Ang dahilan kung bakit nandito yung mga online gaming na yan ay dahil ipinagbabawal yan sa China."

[Translation: The reason why online gaming is here is because it is illegal in China.]

Roque was the only one among the four who questioned whether there were enough skilled Filipino workers to fill jobs in industries who need their abilities.

"Kailangan po ng masusing pag-aaral, kung ano talaga ang kakulangan natin at kung meron ba tayong sapat na manggagawa para gumawa nito," he said.

[Translation: We need to study what our deficiencies are and if we have enough workers to fill jobs.]

Roque's answer did not sit well with some of the audience, and shouts of "meron!" were heard as he spoke.

But he gave the reminder that similar situations are seen in other countries where there are overseas Filipino workers.

"Huwag nating kalimutan na 11 miliion na mga Pilipino po nagtatrabaho sa iba't-ibang bansa. Bakit? Dahil sa mga bansang ito, hindi sapat ang kanilang manggagawa," he said.

[Translation: Don't forget that 11 million Filipinos work overseas because there also aren't enough workers in these countries.]

An inventory must be made, Roque said to determine what exactly the country needs in its Build, Build, Build program as well as the needs of the private sector.

"Pag-aralan natin ilan ang available na market dito. Siyempre po, kinakailangan ang gobyerno mag-train ng mas maraming skilled at semi-skilled workers... pero kung talagang kulang, e di dun natn bigyan ng mga legal na permits at kinakailangan ipatupad ang mga batas," he said.

[Translation: Let's study how many are available in the market here. of course the government has to train more skilled and semi-skilled workers... but if there is really a lack, then that's when we give legal permits and implement the law.]

Just last week, former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said the Duterte administration should look into the supposed increasing number of Chinese migrant workers in the country.

"Kinukuha ba 'yung trabaho na para sa Pilipino? 'Yung mga Pilipino, nakikita sa survey, parating sinasabi, nagsasalita ng katiyakan ng trabaho, pagkakaroon ng trabaho at panatilihin ang trabaho. Kailangan mareview natin ito."

[Translation: Are they getting the jobs for Filipinos? Filipinos are seen in the survey always saying about securing jobs, employment and tenure. This should be reviewed.]

in November last year, the Department of Labor said there was an influx of foreigners toursits — particularly Chinese tourists — who end up working in the country.

In a Senate committee hearing in 2018, it was revealed that 115,652 Alien Employment Permits (AEPs) were issued by the government to foreigners from 2015 to 2017. Of the total, 51,000 permits were issued to Chinese nationals. Some 2,000 Chinese were also given jobs in construction in the past three years.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said 21,320 AEPs were issued within the first three months of 2018.

According to the Bureau of Immigration, 393 foreign nations were arrested in 2018. Of these, 304 were Chinese nationals who were overstaying or working without permit.

Under the Labor Code, an AEP can only be issued to foreign workers if there are no interested or competent Filipinos to perform the job. DOLE said the permit can only be issued for jobs that require a highly-specialized technical, supervisorial, and managerial work. Once a foreigner secures the permit, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Department of Justice can give that foreigner a working visa. But the BI revealed it also issued special working permits even without AEP from DOLE.