A Chinese worker is seen at the construction site of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in Manila yesterday. The project is funded by loans from the Chinese government.
Russell Palma
Labor department seeks joint circular on policies on foreign workers
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - June 12, 2019 - 8:32am

MANILA, Philippines — The Labor department is pushing for a joint memorandum circular that will harmonize all policies on foreign workers as some sectors are concerned that the influx of foreigners may take jobs away from Filipinos. 

Labor officials made the proposal during a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Monday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.

"To harmonize policy guidelines for foreign nationals intending to work in the Philippines, a joint memorandum circular among the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), DOF (Department of Foreign Affairs), DOJ (Department of Justice), BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), PRC (Professional Regulation Commission), BI (Bureau of Immigration) and NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) is requested," Panelo said in a statement. 

"Through this JMC, foreign nationals shall first secure an alien employment permit, a working visa, and a tax identification number before they can be permitted to work in the country," he added. 

During the meeting, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Bureau of Local Employment Director Dominique Rubia-Tutay reported that most of the foreigners working in the Philippines are Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Most of them work in administrative support, offshore gaming operations and business process outsourcing.

The entry of foreign workers into the country was in the spotlight after some labor groups urged the Duterte administration to look into the influx of Chinese workers in the Philippines, a phenomenon that they said would take away jobs from Filipinos. 

In May, the Bureau of Immigration said it has worked with the DOJ, DOLE and BIR to come up with tighter guidelines for foreign workers, including requiring proof of tax payments.

"We saw a rise in the number of foreign nationals in the previous years due to emerging industries such as the online gaming industry," Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said then, referring to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, where 138,001 foreign nationals are employed based on DOLE and BI data.

The BI said that it issued 83,670 special work permits in 2018. Those are valid for six months and allow foreigners to "render service" while on a tourist visa. DOLE meanwhile issued 54,241 Alien Employment Permits, which are required for 9(g) visas, a visa "for aliens employed in the country, with contracts usually lasting for one to three years."

In a Senate hearing in February, the Labor department said Chinese nationals enter the Philippines using tourist visas before securing short-term permits to work for the online gaming firms. 

Malacañang has downplayed the concerns, saying there is nothing wrong with the entry of Chinese workers as long as they comply with existing laws. 

Last April, Sen. Richard Gordon called for an investigation on the entry of foreign doctors without permits. The senator said a syndicate may be facilitating the entry and employment of foreign doctors, including Pakistani and Nepalese medical practitioners.

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