The Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chairperson Senator Joel Villanueva slammed government agencies on Monday for their lack of monitoring and negligence in allowing the influx of illegal foreign workers, mostly Chinese nationals, in the country.
Villanueva underscored that there is a clear neglect on the part of government agencies in promoting the preferential use of Filipino labor as mandated by the Constitution.
"Kahit maka-ilang raid pa tayo ng marami pang illegal Chinese establishments na may illegal Chinese workers kung hindi naman maresolba ng proper government agencies ang animo'y pagdagsa nila sa bansa sa mga ilegal na paraan, magpapaikot-ikot lang po tayo dito. How can we not urge our government agencies to act fast and not turn a blind eye to this issue?" Villanueva said.
Last November 22, 93 illegal Chinese workers were arrested in an illegal online gaming facility in Pasig City.
Just weeks prior to the incident, 34 Chinese nationals were caught working in a construction site near SM MOA along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue.
Last year, May 23, 2017, 9 Chinese nationals and an Indonesian was caught operating in a dredging vessel loading lahar and black sand in Macolcol River, San Felipe, Zambales without having the necessary permit.
Villanueva shared that this situation is ironic as adult joblessness in the country increased to 22% or equivalent to 9.8 million unemployed Filipino adults in September this year. The senator also noted that Alien Employment Permits (AEPs) must only be issued to those jobs that cannot be performed or executed by Filipino workers.
"Diinan ko lang po - sobra-sobrang pang-aabuso na ang dinaranas natin sa pagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa, hindi po lingid sa kaalaman natin iyan, pati ba naman sa sarili nating bansa papayag pa rin tayong apihin ng mga dayuhan?" the senator said.
Villanueva said that the problem is rooted from the complex processes in issuing AEPs by the Department of Labor and Employment and the labor market test which is only published in the newspaper of general circulation
During the hearing, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) admitted that they issue Special Work Permits (SWP) to foreign workers without AEPs.
Based on the data submitted by DOLE, there were 115,652 AEPs issued by the Labor Department to foreign nationals from 2015 to 2017.
Almost half or 51,980 AEPs were issued to Chinese nationals.
"Nakaka-alarma po dahil nasa 24,000 out of the 52,000 AEPs ay na-issue for just one year, noong 2017. Gusto po nating klaruhin 'yan kung bakit may immigration surge o may sudden influx ng Chinese nationals dito sa atin," Villanueva emphasized.
"Klarong-klaro po: itong mga Chinese nationals, ninanakawan ng trabaho ang mga Pilipino, inaagawan ng tirahan, at kinukupitan ng oportunidad ang mga Pilipino," the senator further lamented.
Villanueva also reacted to the argument of Atty. Homer Arellano, BI Chief of Prosecution and Legal Assistance, that Chinese nationals are hired in the country for their Mandarin language skills.
"Kung sinasabi ng Bureau of Immigration na hindi karamihan ang mga Pilipino na marunong mag-Mandarin, eh ano po ang ginagawa ng mga Language Skills Institute natin sa TESDA?" the senator asked.
Villanueva shared that TESDA has more than 40 language institutes across the country that can train Filipino workers to meet the demand for Mandarin speakers.
"Kaya po nating mag-train ng skills, wala namang hindi kakayanin ang mga Pilipino kaya nga po in-demand ang mga Filipino workers kahit saang bahagi ng mundo," the senator stressed.
"I think it's about time to put in place protective measures to ensure that Filipino workers are prioritized in their own country and will always have a fighting chance in this age of rapidly shrinking global economy. Kailangan po natin ang ganitong batas dahil hindi po dapat ninanakawan ng trabaho ang ating mga manggagawa," Villanueva said.
Photo by Jansen Romero/Manila Bulletin