Bam Aquino: Senate should take lead in investigation of PH-China deals

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 2) — Senator Bam Aquino on Sunday said he hopes the Senate will take the lead in investigating deals of the Philippine government with China.

In CNN Philippines’ #TheFilipinoVotes Senatorial Forum, Aquino urged for transparency in the administration’s negotiations with China— this after addressing the reported influx of Chinese workers in the country.

“Ang problema kasi natin sa China, hindi malinaw 'yung polisiya ng ating bansa pagdating sa China. Hindi malinaw 'yung polisiya natin pagdating sa teritoryo, hindi malinaw 'yung polisya natin pagdating sa mga mangingisda natin, hindi po malinaw sa mga workers,” Aquino said during the forum held at the University of the Philippines Diliman University Theater in Quezon City.

[Translation: The problem we have with China is that our policies aren’t clear—our policies regarding territory, our policies regarding our fishermen, our policies for workers.]

“Sana po 'yung Senado 'yung manguna sa imbestigasyon na ito. Tanungin natin, ang mga deals na ito ay pabor ba sa ating bansa? O dehado ba ang mga Pilipino sa sarili nating bayan?”

[Translation: I hope the Senate will lead in this investigation. Let us ask, would these deals favor our country? Or will these post a disadvantage for Filipinos]

“Ang hinihiling natin dito, 'yung pagiging malinaw at transparent sa pakikitungo natin sa China. Wala ho dapat secret deals,” added the Senator, who is seeking a second term under the Liberal Party (LP).

[Translation: What we are seeking here are clarity and transparency in our dealings with China. There should be no secret deals.]

The Labor Department on Monday revealed there has been an influx of tourists— particularly Chinese nationals— who ended up as workers in the country.

It was revealed during the first Senate committee hearing on the influx of foreign workers that the government has issued 115,652 Alien Employment Permits (AEPs) 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.

READ: 'Upward trend' in Chinese workers in PH – Labor Department

Vice President Leni Robredo earlier called for transparency in the signed agreements between Philippines and China. In a statement this month, she said the public should be informed on how deals would serve national interest.

Loopholes in the law?

Human rights lawyer Atty. Chel Diokno meanwhile said these Chinese workers have taken advantage of the loopholes in the country’s laws.

Diokno, who is also running as Senator under LP, hopes lawmakers' investigation on these illegal Chinese workers will prove to be beneficial for countrymen in need of jobs.

“It's quite easy I believe to fill up the loopholes in our law. They have taken advantage of the visas given to tourists, and made that as gateway to our country,” Diokno said.

“Sa akin lang, it's very clear, nasa Saligang Batas natin 'yan, nasa Labor Code natin 'yan, ang dapat mauna sa pagbibigay ng trabaho ay ang kapatid natin, mga kapwa Pilipino.”

[Translation: For me, it’s very clear, it is in our constitution, our Labor Code, that the when it comes to jobs, priority should be given to our countrymen. )

President Rodrigo Duterte in a speech last Tuesday said he's eyeing the deportation of Chinese nationals illegally working in the country. However, he suggested diplomatic ways to make the illegal workers leave. He noted how there are also many Filipinos illegally working in other countries.

The Labor Department said most of the 1.6 million Chinese tourists that entered the country this year later applied for a work permit.