DOLE: Chinese working on Binondo Bridge project are architects and engineers, not laborers

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Department of Labor and Employmen Secretary Silvestre Bello (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 12) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is disputing reports that Chinese nationals working for the Binondo Bridge project are laborers.

DOLE Director Dominique Tutay said the Chinese working on the projects are architects, engineers, and those who take on "higher level technical positions."

She said they have proper documentation to work in the country.

"We have been in touch with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and we found out na 'yun pong mga [and we found out that the] Chinese nationals have been issued special non-immigrant visas which have been issued by the Department of Justice," she said.

Tutay added they have advised the DPWH and that the agency is working on the issuance of work permits for the foreign workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the government will only grant Alien Employment Permits (AEP) to foreign nationals who can provide services that cannot be done by Filipinos.

Bello said Chinese nationals involved in the construction the Binondo Bridge project should only be around at the beginning of the construction period.

"Siguro for the start lang 'yan. Start lang 'yan. Technical siguro. Kasi 'yung kanilang project, sila mag-introduce. After that, they have to leave. Hindi naman pwedeng permanent sila diyan," he said.

[Translation: Maybe they will be present just just for the start. It could be technical. Because they introduced their project. After that, they have to leave. They cannot be there permanently.]

Bello says there are other government agencies like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the Bureau of Immigration which issue permits allowing foreign nationals to work locally.

He said his agency would speak to these agencies and impress on them that the Labor Department is the sole agency to decide on the issuance of working permits to foreigners.

"We will have an inter-agency meeting where we would like all other agencies na nagbibigay ng temporary permit, special visa, na kung maari when it comes to employment, dapat yung Department of Labor ang magdedecide diyan kung sino ang pwede magtrabaho," Bello said.

[Translation: We will have an inter-agency meeting where we would like all other agencies who issue temporary permits and special visas, to have the Department of Labor be the one to decide who will be allowed to work.]

DOLE said it has issued more than 100,000 APEs from 2015 to 2017. Of this, about 50,000 were given to Chinese nationals who mostly work in the entertainment and gaming sectors.

Bello however admitted they've received reports of about 400,000 Chinese nationals without AEPs working in the country.

"They are not holders of AEPs and therefore to our minds, they are illegal," he said.

Bello said they were told that many illegal Chinese workers are at 168 Mall in Divisoria. He added some are also involved in online gaming.

In September, Bello said they would look into these reports.

"We are strengthening our enforcement mechanism inspection of work places to check on these illegals," he said at the time.