Palace: Give China flexibility to hire workers for funded infra projects in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21)— The Chinese government should be given flexibility in hiring workers for infrastructure projects it has funded for the Philippines, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that China should be given leeway in employing Chinese workers in two bridge construction projects in the country, given that these are “100 percent” donations from the East Asian giant.

“It’s being given to us 100 percent. We don’t pay back anything for the building of these bridges, and that’s why we need to give them some flexibility in the personnel that they would hire,” Roque said in an interview with The Source.

“Had this been a project that we would pay for using taxpayers’ money, of course, government would insist that aside from highly-technical positions, that Philippine labor should be employed. But the proper perspective is this is an outright grant or donation to the Philippine government… Because of that, I just appeal that we should give them some leeway,” he added.

The Department of Public Works and Highways earlier admitted that Chinese workers have been employed for two China-funded infrastructure projects— the Pantaleon-Estrella Bridge and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge.

During a recent Senate hearing, Public Works Undersecretary Emil Sadain said that 31 percent of the workforce in the first project are Chinese, while the latter has also listed 45 percent of Chinese workers.

These proportions, however, did not sit well with some senators, who appealed to DPWH to prioritize Filipino nationals for employment, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Roque, for his part, said he will raise this concern to both the DPWH and the Labor Department.

“We would appreciate it of course if the Chinese government should employ more Filipinos… But my gut feel is, because it’s 100 percent grant, the Chinese have to be given more flexibility on the decision whom to hire,” he said.