Beijing should be granted 'leeway' in hiring Chinese workers for China-funded projects â Palace
This image shows the design of how the controversial China-funded Binondo-Intramuros friendship bridge will look like.Philippine Information Agency
Philippine Information Agency
Beijing should be granted 'leeway' in hiring Chinese workers for China-funded projects — Palace
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - October 21, 2020 - 3:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday said that the Chinese government should be allowed the flexibility to hire the workers of its choice for the two China-funded bridge projects in the country. 

"Let me highlight that these bridges are 100% donations from the Chinese government. So, I think that should give us the proper perspective. It's being given to us 100%, we don't pay back anything for the building of these bridges and that's why we need to give them some flexibility in the personnel that they hire," presidential spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines' "The Source." 

Senators last week flagged the significant proportion of Chinese workers set to work on bridge construction projects in Metro Manila, citing the pressing need to hire Filipino workers whose livelihoods have been imperiled by COVID-19 crisis.

Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Emil Sadain told a Senate panel that 31% of the workers for the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge are Chinese, while 69% are Filipino. The ratio for the Binondo-Intramuros bridge is more equally divided with 55% Filipino workers and 45% Chinese workers.

"The general rule is foreigners should be hired only when there is not enough Filipinos able and with the capacity to perform the work," Roque acknowledged, but appealed that the Chinese government be given "leeway" all the same.  

"We would appreciate it of course, if the Chinese government should employ more Filipinos...but again please realize that this is 100% donation to us by the Chinese government," he said. 

Employment of foreign workers not a condition for approval of assistance, DPWH says

When DPWH officials faced a Senate panel deliberating on their proposed budget for 2021, they were questioned on whether the employment of foreign workers was a condition for the approval of official development assistance (ODA) from foreign countries.

"No, its not necessarily a condition, but a lot of these new projects, foreign projects, they do come with new technologies, they do require some specialization," DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said in response. 

Roque on Wednesday similarly affirmed that the same rules regarding the prioritization of Filipino workers should apply  regardless of where funding comes from but continued to argue that the Chinese should be granted more elbow room as the projects' backers. 

"I will also discuss this issue both with DPWH and the department of labor to see if we can in fact insist that more FIlipinos should be hired. But my gut feel is, because its 100% grant that the Chinese have to be given more flexibility in the decision on whom to hire," he said. 

Sadain last week said the engagement of workers for the bridges in question "is actually down to the technicalities." 

"Its because of the construction's methodology that goes more with the fabrications on the trusses of the [Binondo-Intramuros] bridge as compared to the Estrella-Pantaleon which is purely a concrete bridge," he said, explaining the higher concentration of Chinese workers on the former. 

READ: Bridge burning bridges: Why the China-funded Binondo-Intramuros structure is controversial

Sen. Francis Pangilinan countered that having even 31% Chinese workers for a Filipino project is high "no matter how you look at it," citing that the construction industry has registered the "largest drop in employment in the second quarter of this year" at 30%. 

"It is really imperative for government to be able to create jobs and also protect existing jobs," he said.

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