THE Philippines appears to be having an influx of Chinese immigrants as millions of Filipinos move overseas to seek employment opportunities beyond the sparse job market.
In wake of this, the Southeast Asian country’s opposition lawmakers have pointed to a possible “flood” of mainlanders, a national problem which has been compounded by President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent lack of knowledge on the numbers of Chinese nationals working in the country legally or illegally.
According to the South China Morning Post, Senator Joel Villanueva, during a recent senate hearing, castigated Bureau of Immigration and Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) officials on the matter.
“It’s glaring,” he told the hearing, which was conducted by the committee on labour, employment and human resources development that he chairs.
“Your records show you are issuing few alien employment permits [AEPs] but there’s a flood [of Chinese workers] and from their numbers, it’s clear there are illegal workers.”
Estimates from the state economic planning agency showed some 3.8 million unemployed Filipinos as of July 2018, and the senator wanted to know whether or not the Chinese were taking away their jobs.
Under Philippine law, foreigners are allowed to work in jobs that Filipinos are not qualified to take.
After two hours of the senate hearing, the senator did not have the proper figures as to how many Chinese workers were living and working in the Philippines after Duterte took office in mid-2016.
Despite the law, the South China Morning Post’s weekly section This Week in Asia uncovered Chinese nationals working legally in sectors such as online gambling, manufacturing and construction, all of which Filipinos were qualified to do. Under the constitution, the state is urged to prefer the use of Filipino labour.
From 2016 to May 2018, the DOLE issued 53,311 AEPs to Chinese nationals, of which 18,557 permits were “administrative and supports service activities”; 10,560 in “arts, entertainment and recreation”, which includes gambling.
The department issued 7,754 in “information and communication” and 4,716 in manufacturing; and 2,884 in construction.
According to the SCMP, most of the Chinese nationals (32,032) in the AEPs are concentrated in Metro Manila, while the remaining were in places that were hosting operations for online gaming.
However, Philippines Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno moved to allay concerns about Chinese immigrants taking local jobs, saying the Manila was on the cusp of signing an agreement with Beijing to deploy 10,000 more Filipinos to China.
“China is willing to hire our overseas Filipino workers,” he said recently.