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Palace: China warns of tit for tat if illegal workers deported

/ 07:25 AM February 27, 2019
Salvador Panelo

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo (File photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Beijing has cautioned Manila against deporting Chinese illegal workers, saying it will do the same to Filipinos working in China, according to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Panelo told reporters on Tuesday that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua had told him that China would “do the same” if the Philippines would hastily deport Chinese illegals.

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“That is what the Chinese ambassador told me during dinner, that if this government will just deport Chinese not in accordance with law, then we will also do the same. That’s tit for tat,” Panelo said.

Panelo did not say when the dinner took place.

No rash move

He said Zhao expressed confidence that the Philippine government would not make a rash move against Chinese illegal workers.

Then he proceeded to say that he and the Chinese diplomat were not specifically talking about the Philippines and China but were just discussing how countries would react to certain moves by other nations.

“He was not actually referring to the Philippines. We were discussing certain movements of governments with respect to the nationals of other governments,” Panelo said.

“And I agree with him that governments will be employing the same policy employed by another government relative to their nationals,” he added.

‘Let them work here’

Panelo said on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte would enforce Philippine immigration laws after lawmakers, trade unionists and even a Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) official rejected a suggestion by the President that Chinese illegals be allowed to stay and keep their jobs to avoid a diplomatic controversy that could lead to the expulsion of thousands of Filipinos in China.

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The President mentioned the Chinese illegal workers in a speech at a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Biñan City, Laguna province, on Sunday.

“The Chinese here, just let them work here. Just let them. Why? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China,” he said.

In a speech in Cebu City later Sunday, he raised the number to 400,000, and said he could not just order the deportation of the Chinese illegals because China might respond in kind.

His remarks came a week after the Senate labor committee resumed its inquiry into the influx of undocumented Chinese workers into the country.

The committee learned that the Chinese were coming in as tourists then getting jobs at Chinese-owned offshore gaming and business process outsourcing companies that were supposed to be available to Filipinos only.

Priority to Filipinos

Vice President Leni Robredo added her voice to the uproar on Tuesday, saying allowing illegal Chinese workers to stay in the country was “patently wrong,” as it defeated the governmental goal of bringing home migrant Filipinos by giving them jobs here.

Philippine laws, Robredo stressed, give priority to Filipinos in job provision and allow jobs to foreigners only if there are no Filipinos available for those jobs.

Asked what she thought of Malacañang’s turnaround, Robredo said: “Let’s see what they will do.”

From her cell in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Sen. Leila de Lima issued a statement slamming President Duterte’s soft stance on Chinese illegals as “cowardice” and “subservience” to China.

De Lima said the President’s stance supported the “perception that he is nothing more than a puppet of China.”

Labor agreement

“Whatever China has on Duterte, to be able to hold him firmly by the neck while we are gradually turned into a Chinese vassal state, is definitely working to its advantage,” De Lima said.

To ease the problem, 1-Ang Edukasyon Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. proposed a labor agreement with China to ensure reciprocity in migrant relations between the two countries.

Belaro, an assistant minority leader in the House of Representatives, said a labor agreement, or treaty, would establish mechanism for the protection of migrants from both sides.

He said a memorandum of understanding signed by the Philippines and China in Boao in April last year for the employment of Filipinos in Chinese industries would be “a good springboard.”

To stem the tide of illegal foreign workers, the Dole is looking at how it could become the sole issuer of work permits to foreigners.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Tuesday that the matter would be taken up by a high-level committee meeting on Friday. —With reports from Melvin Gascon, Marlon Ramos, DJ Yap and Jovic Yee

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TAGS: China-Philippine sworkers, illegal Chinese workers, Salvador Panelo, Zhao Jianhua
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