48 Chinese held on site of steel plant being built in Sarangani
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—At least 48 Chinese nationals have been held by immigration authorities in a compound in Maasim town, Sarangani province over questions on their work permits.
Immigration agents, backed up by soldiers, raided the compound of Panhua Industrial Steel Inc. at the village of Kamanga last April 30.
The operation followed an order by Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente for Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents to check the work permits of a certain Guiyang Xiao and 47 other Chinese nationals in the Panhua compound, where the Chinese firm has been building a steel plant, according to a report by Maasim police chief Maj. Herman Luna. The report was submitted to the Sarangani police.
Luna said immigration agents were investigating reports that the Chinese nationals made “false claims” in documents they signed under oath to support their application for special work permits.
Immigration officials said it could be a violation of the amended Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
Police reported that documents, proofs of identities and other items had been seized from the compound which could show if the Chinese nationals working there were indeed skilled, as the Chinese claimed, or not.
Panhua has entered into an agreement in 2019 with the Philippine government to build and operate a P3.3-billion steel plant at the Phividec Industrial Park in Misamis Oriental.
It is currently building a steel plant in its compound within the Kamanga Agro-Industrial Ecozone in Sarangani, near a coal-fired power plant of the Alcantara-owned Sarangani Energy Corporation.
Rosadelima Mangelen, Kamanga village chief, said villagers learned in April about the arrival of the Chinese who are supposed to be working on building the steel plant in an area which Mangelen’s family used to own but had sold to new owners.
A Filipino worker in the Panhua compound said he and other Filipinos were increasingly worried about the company’s plan to replace them with Chinese workers, as about 1,500 of Chinese workers were expected to arrive in separate dates by end of April and in May.
Mangelen, in an earlier interview with Inquirer, said Panhua officials had asked the municipal goverment to sign a “certificate of no objection” document so that the company could get a clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the project.
“But we asked them to present to us what their plans are and what do they intend to build in our barangay,” said Mangelen.
The Inquirer reached out to the Panhua group for comment but it declined to speak to media.
When asked what awaits the Chinese nationals being held in the Panhua compound, Sittie Almaida Kapampangan, head of the BI in Sarangani, said she was not authorized to speak to media about the case.
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