By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Nancy Binay said on Sunday that a total ban on the employment of foreign construction workers, particularly in the government’s infrastructure projects, is in order.
“Ang panawagan ay total ban sa pagpasok ng mga (The call is for a total ban on the entry of) Chinese laborer at construction workers. Our duty is to protect our own workers and provide job security for them, but sadly, we’re opening our labor market to non-Filipinos,” Binay lamented.
Binay reiterated that a policy requiring the employment of foreign workers as part of loan agreements with China is unfair and disadvantageous to local workers.
“Kawawa naman tayo. Yung mga trabaho na dapat para sa mga kababayan natin eh napupunta lang sa ibang lahi (We’re pitiful. The jobs that are supposedly for our citizens are going to foreigners),” she said.
“Government agencies are expected to protect the interest of Filipinos, dapat malinaw yan (that should be clear). Besides, ipinagbabawal na mag-issue ng special working permits sa construction workers pero may nakakalusot, (issuing special working permits to construction workers are prohibited but there are some who get away with it),” Binay said.
If machinery and equipment were indeed written in foreign languages, she said an interpreter should be enough to fill the communication gap.
She reminded the administration that it vowed to provide jobs to Filipinos through the flagship “Build, Build, Build” program.
“The promise would not be fulfilled if preferential treatment is shown to foreign workers because of conditionalities inserted in official development assistance (ODA) loans,” Binay said.
OFWs in demand abroad
Former Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has urged the government to keep in mind how overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially those working as construction workers and engineers, are in demand abroad.
Roxas, who is seeking a Senate comeback in the upcoming May 2019 midterm elections issued the reminder, as he called on the Duterte administration to review its existing policy on the employment of foreign construction workers, particularly Chinese, in the government’s infrastructure projects.
The former trade secretary said Malacañang’s explanation that Mandarin-speaking Chinese laborers were required because most of the equipment to be used in China-funded infrastructure projects are written in Chinese characters is unacceptable.
“Importante na itong mga trabahong ito ay mapunta sa mga Pilipino. Kung meron naman talagang special skill halimbawa yung trabaho ay magsasalita ng lenggwaheng tsino, maiintindihan ko na tsino ang dapat pumasok dyan. (It’s important that these jobs are given to Filipinos; if there are special skills required, for example, having to speak the Chinese language, I can understand the need for a Chinese worker for that),” Roxas said in a recent interview.
“Pero sa construction, sino pa ba naman ang magiging mas mahusay kaysa sa Pilipino? Masipag yan, mahusay yan (But when it comes to construction work, who are more skilled than Filipinos? They are very hardworking and very competent),” Roxas pointed out.
Aside from construction workers, the “Otso Diretso” senatorial bet noted that Filipino health workers and engineers are likewise,sought out by foreign governments.
“In fact mga Pilipino ang kinukuha ng ibang bansa: engineers natin, blue collar workers natin. Mga Pilipino ang nagpapatakbo ng mga komplikadong refineries sa Middle East, mga construction, health care sa ibang bansa. Pati sa BPO, Pilipino ang hinahanap (in fact, other countries would choose Filipino workers, our engineers, blue collar workers. Filipinos are the one running the complicated refineries in the Middle East, construction and health care companies in other countries. Even BPOs are looking for Filipino employees),” he explained.
“So bakit natin hahayaan na taga ibang bansa ang papasok diyan? Dapat sa Pilipino yan (So why are we allowing other countries to take over? Those jobs are for Filipinos),” Roxas argued.
That is why, he said, it is important for the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to track down the number of Chinese workers already in the Philippines and find solutions to the growing disparity in local employment.
“Ang importante alamin natin kung ano ang sitwasyon para mabigyan natin ng tamang solusyon (What is important is to know full well the current situation so the government can find a right solution to the problem),” Roxas said.