Senate to probe influx of illegal Chinese workers

NOVEMBER 23, 2018
National Capital Region Office arrested 87 Chinese nationals who were employed in an illegally operating gambling hub inside the Ortigas business district in Pasig City on Thursday.
PHOTO FROM NCRPO

By Dexter Cabalza, DJ Yap, Jovic Yee/inquirerdotnet – Sen. Joel Villanueva on Friday assailed the growing number of illegal Chinese workers who “shamelessly robbed” Filipinos of jobs and also operated clandestine online gambling as he urged authorities to stem the tide of illegal foreign workers, especially from China.

In a statement a day after police arrested 87 Chinese and 16 Filipinos suspected of running unauthorized online gambling platforms, the senator pushed authorities to run after illegals and to strictly enforce immigration and labor laws.

“We strongly believe there is a dire need to strengthen legislation and enforcement to stop illegal online gambling and proliferation of illegal Chinese workers that shamelessly robbed our own people of jobs,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, will launch next week an investigation of the influx of illegal Chinese workers.

He said there was an urgent need for a thorough review of laws, the enforcement system and the coordination of agencies involved in regulating the entry of foreign workers into the country.

Villanueva said Thursday’s police raid “only shows how bad the problem has become and it is incumbent upon our government to exert every effort possible to prevent this activity from proliferating in our shores.”

Pasig raid

The police raided Finasia Tech Inc. at Ortigas Techno Point Building 2 in Pasig City where they arrested the Chinese and Filipino staff on Thursday afternoon.

The Regional Special Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office said Finasia did not have a permit to operate as a Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogo) company, or as a Pogo agent or even as a special business process outsourcing (BPO) company from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

The dozens of electronic gadgets, including desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones and other devices allegedly used in illegal gambling operations that were confiscated were turned over to the police Anti-Cybercrime Group for examination.
The police charged those arrested for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“It appears that despite our earlier calls on the concerned agencies, reports on increasing presence of illegal Chinese workers, especially in Metro Manila, have not been addressed,” Villanueva said.

Alarm raised

During a hearing on the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in September, Sen. Franklin Drilon expressed alarm over the mass arrival of Chinese workers in the country, which he said deprived Filipinos the chance to be gainfully employed.

Figures from the Dole show that since 2015, close to 116,000 foreigners have been issued an alien employment permit (AEP), which allows them to work legally in the Philippines
.
An AEP will only be issued if there is no Filipino willing or competent enough to do the job being offered to a foreigner.

Chinese nationals accounted for the biggest bulk of foreign workers holding AEPs, numbering some 52,000, or about 45 percent of the total. They are said to be working in manufacturing, information and communications, and administrative and support services.

Friendlier stance

The increase seemed to have followed the friendlier stance toward China taken by President Duterte compared to his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.

In 2015, the Dole issued 28,300 AEPs. This jumped to 41,993 in 2016 and slightly increased to 45,288 last year.

The number of Chinese workers with work permits showed the most pronounced increase—more than doubling from 9,100 in 2015 to 18,920 in 2016 and to more than 23,000 in 2017.

Most noticeable in Metro

Japanese workers, the second highest number of foreigners holding AEPs, only increased from 3,953 in 2015 to 4,219 in 2017.

The entry of Chinese workers was most noticeable in Metro Manila—soaring from 5,000 in 2015 to 17,300 last year.

Drilon said that he had learned from “industry people” that there were now around 400,000 foreign workers in Metro Manila alone, a third of them supposedly working in Pogos and BPOs in Parañaque’s Entertainment City.

Drilon recalled that in November 2016, authorities found only 235 of the 1,300 Chinese nationals who were arrested in the raid on an online gaming venture at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino at Clark Freeport in Pampanga held AEPs.

Dominique Tutay, head of the Bureau of Local Employment, last week said the Dole would lead an interagency task force that would verify and ensure that only foreigners with valid permits work in the country.

The task force, which is expected to be rolled out within the month, will specifically look into the employment situation of the accredited Pogos in Metro Manila and at the Clark and Subic free ports where some foreigners may not possess AEPs.

Agencies such as the Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and the Professional Regulatory Commission also issue special work permits to foreigners.

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