MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes the decision of Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to call for a Senate inquiry into the national security implications of the entry of around four million Chinese workers into the country since 2017.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte always leaves it to the discretion of the legislative to investigate any government program or project.
“Ang Presidente naman po ay nirirespeto ang kapangyarihan ng Senado na magsagawa ng imbestigasyon in aid of legislation and by way of oversight sa kahit anong programa ng gobyerno, so that’s welcome po (The President respects the power of the Senate to conduct investigations in aid of legislation and by way of oversight of any government program, so that’s welcome),” he said.
Last week, Roque said China should be granted "leeway" to hire Chinese workers for the two China-funded bridge projects in the country.
“Well, 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 have hired,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines on Oct. 21.
Senators earlier questioned the high proportion of Chinese workers set to work on bridge construction projects in Metro Manila, stressing the need to hire Filipino workers whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the employment of foreign workers is not necessarily a condition for the approval of official development assistance (ODA) from foreign countries.
Public Works Undersecretary Emil Sadain said 31 percent of the workers for the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge are Chinese, while 69 percent are Filipino.
Sadain also said the ratio for the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge is more equally divided with 55 percent Filipino workers and 45 percent Chinese workers.
Roque said the DPWH told him that Chinese workers were hired for “specialized” technologies used to build the two bridge projects funded by Chinese government.
On Wednesday, Pangilinan expressed concern over a possible orchestrated "soft invasion" of foreign national retirees and some four million Chinese nationals in the country.
He said it was particularly alarming because of the long-standing sea dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.
Soft invasion concerns, he said, are rooted in investment and infrastructure projects funded by China, including debt exposure, geopolitical risks, and sovereignty issues. (PNA)