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Palace refutes Noy on Chinese workers, but admits thin construction labor pool

Malacañang on Thursday questioned the basis of former President Benigno Aquino III’s statement that President Duterte should worry about the surge in the number of Chinese workers in the country, even as it admitted that there was a manpower shortage in the construction industry.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing that the shortage had prompted Duterte to order the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to step up training support for construction workers.

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Panelo asked where Aquino got his data and information on the entry of Chinese workers into the country.

“Let’s just say if [Aquino] is concerned, we will also be concerned if his basis is correct,” Panelo said.

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Taking Filipino jobs

At a book launching event at De La Salle University on Wednesday, Aquino questioned the presence of “too many” Chinese workers who, he said, were taking jobs from Filipinos.

Panelo said Aquino’s statement was not a cause for alarm.

“If [the Chinese workers] came here through lawful means, then I am not alarmed. I will be alarmed if they are here because they violated the law,” he said.

Told that Aquino got his information from businessmen, Panelo changed tune.

He said that during the wake of Henry Sy Sr. last weekend, the tycoon’s family told Duterte about delays in their company’s construction projects due to the lack of carpenters, welders and construction workers.

“The President agreed and said that Tesda was an important department because that’s our problem (lack of construction workers) now,” Panelo said.

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“We lack so many construction workers. Probably that’s why there are many Chinese workers who are being hired [in the country] because there [is a shortage of Filipino workers],” he said.

Asked if he shared Aquino’s concern, Panelo said he could only concede that “[the shortage] is probably the reality now.”

On a personal note, Panelo said he was able to find a carpenter to repair his house only after a six-month search and that he still needed a welder to fix his gate.

Workers go abroad

“So whatever happened to them? But these workers go abroad, so probably they all left. So we have a problem,” he said.

Tesda, he said, should put up more technical schools to provide training for workers.

Panelo also denied Aquino’s claim that the “strategic comprehensive cooperation” with China was disadvantageous to the country because Mr. Duterte had shelved the arbitral ruling in the South China Sea in exchange for more loans and investments from China.

The President, he said, considers it impractical for now to deal with the arbitral ruling because the Philippines cannot enforce it.

“So rather than we quarrel, if China can help us on trade relations and other aspects, then let’s help each other,” he said.

Aquino had asked how the Philippines could have a strategic partnership with a country “that is perceived to be the primary threat to your interest.”

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TAGS: former President Benigno Aquino III, Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo
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