Senator Joel Villanueva is planning to resume the committee hearing on the influx of illegal foreign workers in the country after receiving information from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showing 95 percent of its arrests last year involved Chinese nationals.
Of the 167 foreign nationals either arrested or charged in court for various offenses in 2018, the NBI reported that 159 cases involved Chinese nationals, the senator said in a statement.
“The information we received from the NBI offers another perspective that we need to consider in this pressing problem of illegal foreign workers using loopholes in our system to take away jobs that Filipinos can do,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development.
Other nationalities arrested or charged by the NBI include six individuals from Taiwan, one Korean and one Liberian, the agency's report stated.
In the cases involving Chinese nationals, NBI data showed 114 individuals have been arrested for illegal online gambling, the senator cited.
“With this new information, we can see how the issue on illegal foreign workers is evolving,” he added. “If some government officials are not concerned by this development, I think they do not fully appreciate the constitutional provision on the preferential treatment for Filipino workers.”
The senator expressed his gratitude to NBI Director Dante Gierran for acting swiftly on the committee’s request.
“We are grateful to the NBI for their timely response, and we appreciate the resources the body has put into this problem. Perhaps we can look at ways for concerned agencies to coordinate and collaborate so that we can preserve and protect job opportunities for Filipinos,” he continued.
Only the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has the technical capacity to vet the entry of foreign workers as enshrined in their mandate, Villanueva stated, citing the Labor Code.
“We recognize that our country benefits from the transfer of knowledge and technology which are brought in by foreign workers,” the senator explained. "We do not oppose their entry for as long as they come to our country with proper documentation and undergone the right process as required by the DOLE.”
"We are not singling out any nationality. Our intention is to preserve the jobs for Filipinos," he added.
He has put to task the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for issuing special working permits to foreign workers whose jobs here can be ably done by Filipinos. Last year, the Senate committee on labor uncovered the practice of issuing SWPs to individuals working as construction workers, cashiers, and call center agents, among other roles.
Since the hearing on November 26, 2018, Villanueva questioned the bureau’s authority to issue SWPs, which had been initially intended to accommodate short-term workers such as professional basketball imports and performing artists.
“We also learned about the practice of the so-called ‘expedite lane’ where a foreign worker can pay P5,000 ‘without receipt’ at a BI satellite office in Taguig, and the applicant can get the SWP immediately,” Villanueva said.
The senator pushed for an amendment in the 2019 national budget that put an end to the practice of the BI to issue SWPs. The amendment likewise restored the responsibility on the DOLE as the sole agency that vets applications of foreign nationals to work in the country.
In 2016, Villanueva filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the increasing number of illegal foreign workers in the country, after authorities arrested nearly 1,000 Chinese nationals working at a casino in Clark.