Villanueva challenges next Congress amid influx of foreign workers in PH
MANILA, Philippines — On the last Senate session of the 17th Congress, Senator Joel Villanueva on Tuesday challenged the next Congress to continue fighting the prevalence of foreign workers in the country.
Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, said the next Congress must ensure that Filipinos are being prioritized in job opportunities in the country.
The senator said this amid recent issues of illegal foreign workers in the country taking over jobs that can be done by Filipinos.
“Let us work together in the next Congress to ensure that only when there are no Filipinos who are capable, able and willing do we issue a work permit to a foreigner,” Villanueva said in his privilege speech during the last Senate session of the 17th Congress.
“Let us also work together to ensure that there is a system of technology transfer to ensure that foreigners who are admitted to work in the Philippines transfer their know-how to Filipinos,” he added.
Villanueva slams PAGCOR, BI anew
While recognizing the upper chamber’s efforts in helping Filipino workers, Villanueva said the country was met with several issues pertaining to the rise of illegal workers here.
Villanueva noted that the majority of foreign workers that are working illegally in the country are Chinese nationals who are working Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.
The senator also slammed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for its failure to regulate workers in the legal gambling sector.
“Nakakapagtaka na sa napakahabang panahon, bangka ng sugal sa bansa ang PAGCOR pero nang pumasok ang POGO, na-pogo na rin ang pagiging regulator nito! Sa Tagalog, ‘pogo’ means ‘pigil’, ‘putol’, o ‘kalbo’ . Parang ganun na rin po ang nangyari sa PAGCOR, na-pogo!” Villanueva said.
“Does PAGCOR really perform its duty to regulate gambling in the country? Nagpunta po tayo sa isang building sa Makati, and we found that 22 out of the 38 companies listed in the buildings’ directory are either offshore gaming operators or offshore gaming providers. Isang building pa lang po ito sa Makati!” Villanueva added, noting that the country is losing P3 billion pesos a month in unpaid taxes from foreign POGO workers.
Likewise, Villanueva also slammed the ‘corrupt’ practices within the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which is viewed as one of the reasons for the increase in the issued special working permits (SWPs) by the bureau.
“The BI admitted that some of the SWPs it issued refers to jobs that Filipinos are competent, able, and more than willing to take, such as call center representatives, electrical technicians, tour guides, machine operators, and construction workers,” Villanueva said.
“We believe that one of the reasons for the huge spike in the number of SWPs issued to foreign nationals is due to the corrupt practices that are prevalent in the BI,” the senator added.
Villanueva said that corruption is prevalent even in satellite offices where employees ask for additional charges for faster processing of the permits.
“We maintain that the BI does not have the authority to issue any form of work permit. The authority to issue work permits rests with the DOLE because it is the only agency that has the capacity to vet whether or not a particular job can be offered to a foreigner,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva also raised other issues related to labor in the country such as employment and underemployment, and the “exodus” of overseas Filipino workers.
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