For P5,000 ‘fee,’ foreigners easily get Philippine work permit –Villanueva
Some immigration personnel are charging P5,000 per applicant to facilitate the release of special work permits to foreigners, according to Sen. Joel Villanueva, who asked the labor department to get involved in the process before such a document is issued.
Villanueva disclosed the practice during his interpellation of the proposed Bureau of Immigration (BI) budget on Wednesday.
No receipts are issued at the bureau’s satellite office in Taguig City for the P5,000 payment, which would guarantee the release of the permit within the day, he said.
As of last November, the BI had issued some 185,000 special work permits, Villanueva said. This meant that the quick release fees for the work permits could have amounted to P925 million, he added.
The regular fee for a special work permit is P6,400.
“Even if 40 percent of the applicants sought to have their permits expedited, this is still a big amount,” he said. “Where did this go?”
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, earlier found that some 119,000 tourists, mostly from mainland China, were able to work in the country by circumventing labor rules.
They enter as tourists and get short-term special permits to work in online gambling operations. They technically remain as tourists, which means their employers need not prove that Filipinos could not perform their jobs.
Short-term special permits are obtained from the BI.
Villanueva said he was not against foreign workers coming to the Philippines but that he did not want illegals depriving Filipinos of livelihood.
“What I’m advocating against is the proliferation of illegal workers who are taking jobs away from our countrymen,” he said.
This was the reason Villanueva pushed for the inclusion of a new provision in the budget bill that requires the BI to coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in granting special working permits to foreigners who want to work in the Philippines for less than six months.
Other senators were open to the idea.
No technical capacity
According to Villanueva, the BI does not have the technical capacity to vet the entry of foreign workers and that the Dole is in a better position to carry out the task.
“Only the Dole has the capability to assess whether foreigners seeking to work in the Philippines could be allowed to do so,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, the BI went a step too far in issuing its special working permits.”
Villanueva said he understood the bureau’s need to issue work permits to foreign artists holding concerts, foreign basketball players and the like, but it also gave permits to other foreigners in jobs that could be done by Filipinos.
In contrast to the 185,00 special permits issued by the BI in the first 11 months of 2018, the Dole had issued only 115,652 alien employment permits (AEPs) from 2015 to 2017, Villanueva noted.
AEPs are issued to foreigners who perform jobs that need a higher level of expertise not available in the current labor market.
“There were those issued [special working permits] to the surprise of the Dole. Why would you give these to a construction worker, call center agent? And these data came from the BI, from the Office of Deputy Commissioner [Tobias] Javier,” Villaueva said.
Foreigners who obtained special working permits from the BI included chefs, mechanic helpers and mechanic feeders, whose jobs can be performed by Filipinos, he said.
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