Palace: Immigration laws to be enforced by government

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo ( photo)

Immigration laws will be fully enforced against illegal foreign workers in the Philippines, Malacañang announced on Monday, February 25.

This was issued after President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for saying he cannot deport Chinese workers in the Philippines because there are illegal Filipino workers who also benefit from China.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo clarified that “the president’s policy on Chinese workers who are illegally staying in the country remains the same, which is the enforcement of immigration laws against violators.”

“Our laws will be applied with full force and effect equally to all foreign nationals who violate them,” he added.

Panelo also said Chinese workers who have working permits and are compliant with immigration rules will be given the protection they are entitled to.

Ambassador Zhao Jianhua recently told Duterte that Philippine laws should be enforced against foreign citizens who violate them — Chinese nationals not exempted, according to Panelo.

However, he maintained that the government would not act recklessly against perceived violations of Chinese citizens.

“To do so would be a dangerous policy as we have, as the president stressed in his campaign rally speech, thousands of Filipinos in China and its government might enforce a policy of tit for tat to the detriment of our countrymen in China,” Panelo said.

“The government will tread cautiously and in accordance with the Constitution in dealing with any matter involving Chinese migrants perceived or alleged to be staying illegally, given the situation of thousands of Filipinos staying in China not in accordance with its laws,” he added.

The Senate recently launched a probe into the rising number of Chinese workers in the country. This is to check whether foreigners are taking over jobs that could have been for Filipinos since labor officials have admitted that more than 119,000 tourists, most of them Chinese, entered the country and were able to skirt Philippine labor regulations.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) cited the country’s laws, policies as well as rules and regulations saying that “all jobs including skills and professions must be given to Filipino workers and professionals.”

“However, if there are specialization and skills unavailable in the labor market, these should be given to foreign workers who must apply for alien employment permit (AEP) from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and work permits from the Bureau of Immigration (BI),” said TUCP president Raymond Mendoza.

TUCP also insisted Filipinos should get the jobs generated by the government’s Build Build Build infrastructure program before other foreign workers.

Where the problem thrives

Dominique Tutay, DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment director, said Chinese workers should enter the country legally.

“They should be documented,” she added.

Tutay noted that Chinese construction workers comprised only less than one percent of the foreign nationals who received AEPs from DOLE, and that Chinese nationals employed in the local construction industry hold highly technical positions and other jobs that require proficiency in Chinese language.

Mendoza, however, said there is no coordination between DOLE and BI when giving out permits.

“This is where the problem thrives. Each agency issues permits allowing foreigners to stay and work here using different criteria,” he said.

According to him, permits issued by DOLE and the BI must be enforced with routine coordination, monitoring and implemented free from corruption.  

An affront to the dignity of Filipino workers

Duterte received criticisms from Partido ng Manggagawa, Federation of Free Workers (FFW), and party-list group Sulong Dignidad for favoring Chinese workers. They said “it’s incumbent upon the President to enforce the country’s laws.”

According to FFW, Duterte’s statement was irresponsible and encourages foreign workers to violate the laws.

Lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho, president of Sulong Dignidad, meanwhile said Duterte’s remarks were “demeaning” and an affront to the dignity of Filipino workers.

“Our workers in China entered their country through legitimate means. The same cannot be said for Chinese workers who came here taking advantage of loopholes in our laws,” he said.

Quicho said that instead of worrying about the Chinese, Duterte should prioritize how to provide decent jobs for Filipinos.

Thorough processing

BI spokesperson Dana Mengote-Sandoval, for her part, assured they will be more thorough in their screening and investigations of Chinese nationals in the country. This is to ensure that only those who violate Philippine laws will be deported.

However, Sandoval insisted they have been compliant with Duterte’s orders to rid the country of illegal and overstaying aliens.

“We do not arrest aliens arbitrarily,” she said. 

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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