No influx of Chinese workers for infra projects — DPWH chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 22)— Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar on Thursday denied that there has been an influx of Chinese workers in some infrastructure projects in the country.

Villar told CNN Philippines that the presence of these foreign workers is “very minimal” compared to the employment of Filipino laborers. He explained that some are only specialists that will help the local team navigate new infrastructure technologies.

“There’s no big influx of Chinese workers,” Villar said in an interview with The Source. “There’s only Chinese workers in several projects, relative to tens of thousands of projects across the country.”

“And they’re only there because there are certain technologies that we don’t have a high level of expertise yet. They’re there to guide us. They are just some specialists for very specific, very few projects that require new technology,” he explained.

DPWH earlier admitted that Chinese workers have been employed in two projects funded by Beijing, particularly the Pantaleon-Estrella Bridge and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge. The two projects have listed 31 percent and 45 percent of Chinese workers, respectively, DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain revealed in a recent Senate hearing.

These data, however, did not sit well with members of the upper chamber, who sought priority employment for Filipino workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in an earlier interview with CNN Philippines, said he will raise the issue with concerned agencies. But he stressed that the Chinese government should also be given leeway in hiring workers for projects it is fully funding and are at no cost to the Philippines.

READ: Palace: Give China flexibility to hire workers for funded infra projects in PH

Villar, for his part, said he earlier issued a department directive for the priority hiring of Filipino workers, adding that has always been the policy of the DPWH.

“There are certain stages of construction that require more manual labor, and there are certain stages of construction that are more technical in nature. Once you get to the manual labor, then it shifts, then it becomes more Filipino workers. But it’s different stages of different projects,” he said.

Both the DPWH and the Chinese embassy have expressed optimism that the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge will be completed by early next year.

Other projects

Aside from this project, Villar noted that the Sta. Monica-Lawton bridge, connecting Pasig to Makati and Taguig, is also expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2021.

The government has also opened a portion of the Tagaytay Bypass Road, which Villar noted would have environment-friendly bike lanes for motorists.