Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to renegotiate government projects with Chinese companies in a bid to give priority to the hiring of Filipinos over Chinese workers.
In an interview with radio dzBB, Pangilinan said the DPWH, with the help of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), can oblige Chinese construction firms to limit the employment of their citizens to highly-technical positions and to yield the labor force to Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pangilinan believes that the contracts can be re-negotiated since these were entered into by the government during the pre-COVID months.
“We should raise this as an issue now that we have 23 million jobless workers. Maybe they can reduce the number of foreign workers and give some jobs to our workers,” Pangilinan said.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, during the Senate hearing into the DPWH’s proposed budget last week, had admitted that around 31 to 45 percent of workers employed for the construction of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the Pantalleon-Estrella Bridge are Chinese.
Pangilinan said there is a law that limits the hiring of foreign workers to technical work and only if there is no available manpower locally.
He said there are several other government projects which employ foreigners, but they are limited to technical works, unlike those employed in the Estrella and Intramuros bridge projects.
“Ang ating info this is peculiar to Chinese. ‘Yung Japanese employment is really restricted to highly-technical works. Iba na ang mundo ngayon after COVID. We have to prioritize ang ating mga kababayan (The information that I have is that this is particular to the Chinese.
The Japanese employment is really restricted to highly-technical works. The world has changed after COVID. We have to prioritize our countrymen),” he added.
Pangilinan said Filipinos workers are always in demand abroad for unique working talents but has found it absurd that Chinese workers still were employed here.
He said he will ask the DPWH to submit a detailed list with job description of Chinese workers employed in those two government projects to determine if indeed all the 45 percent of Chinese workers occupy highly-technical jobs which cannot be taken over by Filipinos.
He said he will bring this up again during the floor deliberations of the DPWH proposed budget for next year.
Pangilinan said the government must not be dictated upon by these foreigners as to who gets the local jobs, especially now that we are in the middle of the pandemic.
“The bottom line is that the approval [to hire foreign workers] lies with the DPWH and our government… The final approval is with our government. Let us not allow them to dictate on us,” he added.