February 25, 2019
QUEZON CITY – Chinese workers are welcome in the Philippines. However, the country’s biggest workers group the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) maintained that the jobs must be kept to Filipinos.
“Our laws and regulations policies are clear: 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). We clearly reiterate that TUCP is not against the entry of foreign workers in the country, but of the adverse impact on our very own workers who are being deprived of potential employment and livelihood opportunities,” said TUCP President Raymond Mendoza.
Nonetheless, the TUCP said the AEP and work permit issued by DOLE and BI must be enforced with routine coordination, monitoring and implemented free from corruption.
“There is no coordination between the DOLE and BI. And this is where the problem thrives. Each agency issues permits allowing foreigners to stay and work here using different criteria,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said the labor market test method that the DOLE uses before it issues work permit is also flawed.
Upon submission of required documents, the DOLE publishes the names, type of jobs that foreign workers are seeking in newspapers. If no one files a protest or complaint about the application for a few days, the applicant is deemed accepted to work for a certain period.
“Nobody is contesting the labor market test because nobody is aware that there is such a publication. No one is filing a complaint against the applicant because no one is even aware of such notice,” Mendoza said adding: “there has to be an immediate serious reforms and improved implementation of work permit policy applied to foreigners.”
On one hand, the TUCP meanwhile welcomes all foreigners, even Chinese nationals for that matter, to come and work in the country as long as they apply for work permits.
“We urge foreign workers including Chinese nationals to legalize their stay, abide with our laws and regulations and respect our culture and traditions. They should legalize their stay so that they will be protected by our laws from abusive and exploitative working conditions,” Mendoza said.
Foreign nationals must go through the due process legally mandated by the laws. Under the Department Order No. 12 (Series of 2001) known as the Omnibus Guidelines for the Issuance of Employment Permits of the Department of Labor and Employment, all foreign nationals seeking employment in the Philippines are mandated to apply for an Alien Employment Permit (AEP). DOLE Order No. 12 states that “an AEP shall be issued based on the following: (i) Compliance by the applicant employer of the foreign national with the substantive and documentary requirements; (ii) Determination of the DOLE Secretary that there is no Filipino national who is competent, able and willing to do the job for which the services of the applicant is desired; and (iii) Assessment of the DOLE Secretary that the employment of the foreign national will redound to national benefit.”
It is also worth-noting that going through the legal process will also benefit migrant workers in terms of labor standards and working conditions. Illegal migrant workers are vulnerable to violation and exploitation of their basic rights as workers as they cannot be provided protection by our laws. They are susceptible to being abused for reasons such as their lack of capacity to speak and understand the Filipino language and other exploitative working conditions such as unjust compensation given to them. They should enjoy the freedom from this worst form of modern-day slavery.
“We even encourage them to allow TUCP to help and organize them into workers union or associations while they work here,” Mendoza said.
The TUCP maintained that the "Build, Build, Build", should foremost generate jobs for Filipinos first.
"In the Philippines, 'ang tunay na problema ay kahirapan (the true enemy is poverty).' What is the point of a building boom if it means that it will be foreign workers who will be employed and other countries will benefit?" Mendoza.
TUCP, therefore, supports a two-pronged strategy to generate decent, sustainable jobs for all Filipinos. First, increase budgetary allocations to Technical and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and target accelerated support to the regional TESDA centers where most of the "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure is scheduled to be built. Such support should be targeted to be appropriate for the construction projects intended in each region.
Second, the Energy Regulatory Commission must bring down our power. Our electricity rates are now the highest in Asia and hamper our economic competitiveness. By bringing down power rates, investors would have the incentive to now enter and put up factories with decent employment even without the need to wait first the next 4 years for the "Build, Build, Build" projects to be constructed.
"TUCP believes that the Government should increase the budgetary allocation for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and DOLE to ensure that the training and re-skilling of Filipino workers can be fast-tracked. We recommend that priority be given to areas and regions where the Administration construction projects are being put up to cut down on time-and-motion manpower-lack problems and fast track towards project completion," explained Mendoza.
"The problem of power rates can be addressed even without obligating the Malampaya Funds to answer for the stranded costs of the privatized National Power Corporation. The ERC can move away from the 'sky-is-the-limit' Performance-Based Rate-making tariff system that has made our power rates unaffordable. The ERC can instead use the 12% Return-on-Rate Base (RORB) tariff under the 1936 Public Service Law. Further, we can push the ERC to insist that all of the Power Supply Agreements (PSAs) of the Distribution utilities – including that of MERALCO – be subjected to international public bidding. Lets put an end to 'sweetheart contracts' between power generators and distribution utilities. These players have price-gouged our poor consumers and suffering industries for the past 16 years. It is not the cost of labor which has made our economy uncompetitive. For Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs), electricity costs constitute 60% of their operational costs," added Mendoza.