China unlikely to support ODA changes on jobs preference — NEDA
Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Several of the country’s official development assistance (ODA) partners may be amenable to the proposed amendments to the ODA law requiring foreign bidders and contract awardees to hire Filipino workers for manual and non-technical jobs, but China may be more resistant, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

Early this week, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 2223 seeking to amend Republic Act 8182 to strictly require foreign contract holders from ODA donor countries to hire local workers for blue collar jobs in development projects.

The bill was filed amid the influx of Chinese workers in the country and fears that Filipino workers will not benefit from national projects that may be funded by Chinese ODA.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said while the intent of the bill could be considered “reasonable,” some ODA partners may be amenable to it while some – especially China – will have serious concerns.

“It depends on the ODA country (if this will be acceptable). Japan will probably be more agreeable, but China will probably need some negotiations, hard  bargaining. They will probably be more resistant to it,” he told reporters yesterday.

Gatchalian said the proposed measure is supported by the Bureau of Immigration’s supplemental guidelines for special and provisional work permits for foreign nationals that prohibit the grant of permits for manual or non-technical work that include for the following professions: construction workers, cashiers, waiters, janitors, household help, carpenters, garbage collectors, security guards and warehouse caretakers.

The same guidelines also prohibit the issuance of such work permits for positions or professions regulated by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

“Maybe Sen. Gatchalian wants to emphasize that our blue collar workers be given priority in terms of construction work,” Pernia said.

Having just been filed, ODA providers to the country as well as NEDA have yet to peruse the contents of the bill.

The proposed amendments also requires the NEDA to publish its findings on the social, environmental, and economic impact of ODA-funded development projects on its website, to promote transparency and ensure accountability among approving authorities and officials.

Sought for comment, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – the official ODA arm of the Japanese government — said its strategy for its projects in the Philippines remains to be the use of more local workers alongside the use of Japanese technical expertise and technology.

“As far as JICA is concerned, our projects seek to contribute to job creation for local forces and to transfer expertise and know-how to local communities,” JICA Philippines senior representative Kiyo Kawabuchi said in a text message, noting the agency has yet to read the bill.

JICA is currently one of the top providers of ODA to the country alongside the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United States and Korea.

Other providers of ODA to the country are Australia, United Nations System, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Italy, Canada, Spain and New Zealand.

ODA loans can be tied or untied.

With tied loans, the implementing government agency is required to procure a certain percentage of the project contents —equipment, services or facilities – from the donor country. The rest can come from any country. This type of loan is usually utilized for projects needing high technology.

With untied loans, on the other hand, the contents of the project can be procured anywhere.

Both types of ODA loans, are backed by sovereign guarantee. Other forms of ODA are technical assistance and grants.

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