Zubiri wants cap on number of foreigners that can be hired for gov't projects

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) — Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said he is pushing for changes to a decades-old law to limit the involvement of foreign contractors and workers in government projects, saying the "support local" campaign should extend to jobs.

Zubiri said he will file a bill that would amend the Contractors' License Law, which a recent Supreme Court ruling noted has no specific provisions banning foreigners from coming to the country and bidding for almost all contracts.

"Hindi naman tama 'yun [That's not right]. If you’re a private corporation and you want to hire a foreign contractor, that's fine by me, but if it's government funds for large and small items... iwan na natin sa Pilipino 'yan [let's give it to Filipinos]," the senator told CNN Philippines' The Source.

READ: PH, China working on 'fast lane' for official travel to speed up projects

"We're not banning foreign contractors from coming in, but let us limit the amount of workers that they are going to hire and also limit the amount they can participate in... Definitely, the best bridge makers are the Koreans and even mainland China. We can tap them to get their technology and equipment, but let’s hire at least 70-80% Filipino workers," he added.

There has been public outcry regarding the involvement of Chinese laborers in the construction of the Beijing-funded Pantaleon-Estrella Bridge and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in Manila, where they supposedly make up 31 % and 45 % of manpower, respectively.

This was downplayed by Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, who said there was "no big influx" of mainlanders to fill construction jobs for flagship projects. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also added that the Philippines needs to hire foreigners for their "specialized knowledge" in construction, especially in using advanced machines developed in their home countries.

READ: Gov't officials see influx of Chinese workers as security threat

Still, Zubiri said this is not acceptable.

"For smaller projects – 'yung paggawa ng classrooms, daycare centers at health centers – kung papasukan pa nila 'yan, kawawa naman ang ating mga kababayan. E 'di wala nang mahahire na mga locals sa bilyun-bilyong projects [For smaller projects like the construction of classrooms, daycare centers and health centers, if they also get the jobs there, our countrymen will be left wth nothing. No locals will be hired anymore for these billion-peso projects]," he explained.

The economic team has rolled out a new list of 100 priority big-ticket infrastructure projects, funded through a mix of loans, public funds, and official development assistance. Japan and China are the biggest sources of project loans.

READ: 70% of Filipinos 'worried' about rise in number of Chinese workers in PH – SWS