By ERMA R. EDERA and GENALYN D. KABILING
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had requested all accredited Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to submit a list of all their foreign workers to determine how many of them are working legally in the country and to know if they are paying the proper taxes.
Foreign POGO workers on the list who do not have the required alien employment permit (AEP) will be recommended to the Bureau of Immigration for immediate deportation.
On Friday, the DOLE reported that a total of 76,936 individuals are currently working in 165 Service Providers of POGO.
“Out of this figure, 63,855 or 82.9 percent are foreign nationals, while 13,081 or 17.1 percent are Filipinos,” the DOLE said.
At least 87.9 percent or 56,180 of them are Chinese, Vietnamese – 1,862 (2.9 percent) and Indonesians – 1,586 (2.5 percent).
DOLE said the numbers could still increase in the coming days. A total of 27 licensed POGO firms have yet to submit their list of FN employees.
According to the DOLE, there are 138,000 foreign workers in the Philippines, most of them Chinese nationals employed by POGOs.
DOLE said 83,760 have Special Work Permits (SWP) and 54,241 have Alien Employment Permits (AEP).
An SWP is issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to foreigners who will be working in the country for less than six months, while an AEP may be obtained by foreigners at the DOLE if they will be locally employed over six months.
For visas, the DOLE said the Department of Justice (DOJ) and four economic zones were able to issue 84,010 visas to foreigners.
Bello admitted that DOLE has limited capability to thoroughly uncover labor violations since it only has 800 labor inspectors nationwide.
The labor department is still waiting for the submission of issued visas for other economic zones.
Exploitation of Chinese workers
China has appealed to the Philippines to help investigate the possible exploitation of Chinese workers in illegal gambling operations in the country.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua sought the country’s cooperation amid concerns about the welfare of Chinese nationals during his closed-door meeting with Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo in Malacañang.
The Chinese diplomat paid a courtesy call on Panelo at his office Monday and tackled various areas of mutual concern. The meeting, which Panelo described as productive, lasted 50 minutes.
“On the Chinese workers in the country, Ambassador Zhao gave assurances that his government does not consent to any illegal entry or employment of its citizens in the country,” Panelo said.
“In addition, he expressed concern on the possible exploitation of Chinese citizens in illegal gambling operations in the country and called for cooperation in strictly monitoring the situation and swift investigation and prosecution of those responsible,” he added.
Panelo and Zhao also discussed the country’s loan agreements with China and agreed that the terms of the loan pacts were “competently and fully negotiated by both parties on equal footing.”
“According to Ambassador Zhao, it is the strong and robust economy of the Philippines that led the Chinese government to extend preferential credit terms for the country’s infrastructure plans,” Panelo said.
Panelo and Zhao also recognized the need for the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea issue as well as the responsible use of marine resources in the disputed territory.
“Both officials recognize the value of responsible utilization of the marine resources of the West Philippine Sea, including the rich fishing ground of the Scarborough Shoal,” Panelo said.
“Both officials likewise give importance to the existing bilateral consultation mechanism between China and the Philippines as an avenue to address possible issues in the West Philippine Sea and to resolve any conflict or misunderstanding that may arise therefrom,” he added.