Amid Chinese workers influx, 'Build Build Build' chief says Filipino laborers enough

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Amid Chinese workers influx, 'Build Build Build' chief says Filipino laborers enough
Carpenters work on the beautification of a school as Baguio continues to enjoy good weather on Jan. 22, 2019.
The STAR / Andy Zapata Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has enough qualified workers for the government's infrastructure programs, an official said Wednesday, in the wake of concerns that there are too many Chinese workers in the construction industry. 

Anna Mae Lamentillo, chair of the committee that oversees the government's "Build Build Build" infrastructure program, said the Philippine labor force could meet the higher demand for construction workers because of the rising employment rate. 

"In terms of labor force, for now, we are okay and we are doing the jobs, jobs, jobs specifically for this to bridge the gap between our Filipino contractors and 
Filipino laborers," Lamentillo said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Lamentillo noted that the country's employment rate went up to 94.6 percent in July 2018 from 94.4 percent in the same period two years ago. She assured the public that Filipino workers would benefit from the "Build Build Build" program but admitted some specialized tasks might require the expertise of foreigners. 

"If we are using new technology and we do not have the specialized skill required to operate, for example, the machines to hasten the construction, then we really lack specialized skills," Lamentillo said. 

"These are methods that we want to learn so we tapped skilled workers from abroad," she added. 

The labor department previously reported it has issued almost 52,000 alien employment permits for workers from China. 

Last week, former President Benigno Aquino III voiced concern over the entry of Chinese workers in the country, saying they might be getting jobs that should be for Filipinos. He said many of the Chinese workers are working for the construction industry.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has downplayed Aquino's concern, saying there is nothing alarming about the influx of Chinese workers as long as they enter the Philippines lawfully. He has also claimed that the Philippines lacks workers in the construction industry because of the migration of Filipinos to other countries.  

"We lack so many construction workers. Perhaps that’s (the reason) why many Chinese workers were hired. Many Filipinos do not have jobs and yet they lack the skill so we need to teach (them). That would be a good project for TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)," Panelo said in a press briefing last January 24. 

A total of 35 out of 75 infrastructure flagship projects have been approved by the  Duterte administration as of November. The approved projects have a total investment requirement of P1.54 trillion.

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