MANILA, Philippines — China should have the flexibility to hire personnel for the projects it is financing, Malacañang said yesterday, after some senators questioned the high percentage of Chinese workers involved in the construction of some bridges in Metro Manila.
During a budget hearing at the Senate last week, Public Works Undersecretary Emil Sadain said 31 percent of the workers for the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge and 45 percent for the Binondo-Intramuros bridge are Chinese.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar told senators that the employment of foreign workers was not a condition for the approval of official development assistance from other countries.
However, a lot of projects require specialization because they involve new technologies, he added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan has questioned the high percentage of Chinese workers employed, noting that the Philippine construction industry has seen the largest decline in employment in the second quarter.
?Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Chinese government should have some leeway in hiring people who will work in China-funded projects.
“Let me highlight that these bridges are 100 percent donations from the Chinese government. So I think that should give us the proper perspective. It’s being given to us 100 percent, we don’t pay back anything for the building of these bridges and that is why we need to give them some flexibility in the personnel that they hire,” Roque told CNN Philippines.
“Had this been a project that we would pay for using taxpayers’ money, of course, government would insist that aside from highly technical positions, that Philippine labor should be employed. But the proper perspective is, it’s an outright grant or donation to the Philippine government,” he added.
The administration, nevertheless, would appreciate it if the Chinese government decides to employ more Filipinos, Roque said.
“The general rule is foreigners should be hired only when there are not enough Filipinos able and with the capacity to perform the work. But again, of course, please realize that this is a 100 percent donation to us by the Chinese government,” he said.
Roque said he would discuss with the labor and the public works departments to determine if more Filipinos could be hired for the bridge construction projects.