They’re almost everywhere now, and the discomfort they bring to the community where they have descended upon is becoming a source of strife for many.
Horror stories of how Chinese mainlanders are slowly encroaching on the Filipinos’ way of life have become a hot topic among distressed locals who have become victims of the arrogance and uncivil ways of these “visitors.”
They’re easy to spot: in shopping malls, supermarkets and other places where they can earn a little cash. They have been described as boorish, ill-mannered and annoyingly noisy. Technically, they are tourists in the country, but by some twist of suspicious fate, they have been given the freedom to take on jobs that Filipinos are capable of doing.
A good friend personally witnessed how Chinese mainlanders have practically taken over the wet market in Cartimar, Pasay City. They spit phlegm anywhere, without regard for proper hygiene, and act as if they own the place. This “possible ownership,” my friend worries, may not be far-fetched. Vendors with whom he has talked to have told him that many Chinese are studying how business is done here. “With wads of cash that they bandy about, these mainlanders are offering to take over other vendors’ businesses with the promise that they can keep their jobs. Is this some sort of grassroot integration?”
If the government’s foreign policy on China does not change, my friend warns, we shouldn’t be surprised if we wake up one day with only business crumbs left for us to content ourselves with. No wonder then why these Chinese visitors are viewed by many Filipinos with caution and contempt.
The low level of Filipinos’ trust in China is telling. Based on the latest Social Weather Stations poll results released on November 20 of this year, the Filipinos particularly dislike President Rodrigo Duterte’s cozying up with the Philippines’s richest neighbor. China recorded a “poor” -16 net trust rating among Filipinos in the SWS survey conducted between September 15 and September 23—far below the “very good” + 59 net rating of the United States, the country’s treaty ally; and the moderate +28 net rating of Japan.
Just over a week ago, the Senate Labor Committee made the Bureau of Immigration (BI) finally admit that it gave working visas to 119,000 Chinese nationals in the Philippines who entered the country with tourist visas this year.
The shocking revelation came as the Department of Labor and Employment called for a thorough investigation of why so many Chinese tourists have been given a 9G or the special working permit (SWP), considering that none of these Chinese citizens have passed any rigorous requirements imposed by the DOLE on foreigners who apply for a working visa in the country.
The revelation in the Senate followed a quiet investigation ordered earlier by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra based on a request by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III for the Department of Justice (DOJ). The investigation aimed to look into the possible involvement of two police officers assigned to the Office of the Commissioner.
Sources said Secretary Guevara ordered the investigation of Atty. Alex Recinto, technical assistant of Jess Castro who is the chief of staff of Commissioner Morente, and a certain Attorney Maminta, also of Morente’s office, to determine their possible involvement in the syndicate behind this apparent irregular issuance of working visas to more than 100,000 Chinese nationals. The DOJ is also investigating allegations that the 9G visas were processed in the BI’s office in SM Aura in Taguig, instead of in the BI’s central office in Intramuros.
The two police officers had already been under scrutiny earlier over the issue of double compensation because they allegedly received salaries both as Morente’s aides and as members of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Their promotion to colonels early this year when they joined the BI from their rank as police major also became controversial because police officers could not legally be promoted while detailed to another government agency.
Recinto also faces administrative cases with the PNP for alleged graft charges involving his former boss General Purisima. It appears that Bello’s concern has solid basis. The Immigration Bureau admitted during the Senate hearing last week that up to 119,000 Chinese nationals who entered the country using tourist visas were issued SWPs that allowed them to work for three to six months. The DOLE, on the other hand, said it only issued 115,000 Alien Employment Permits, which the DOLE ensures would not be for jobs in competition with Filipino workers, and only for supervisory or managerial positions. The DOLE also publishes the names of the AEP applicants in widely circulated newspapers to determine if there are objections from local workers or the applicants.
A gaming analyst has revealed to the BusinessWise that there could be as many as 300,000 Chinese nationals, not just 119,000, currently working in the Philippine Online Gaming Operations or Pogos. This means that more than double the initially established count of these Chinese nationals are working in the country with no government permit or visa and remain undocumented. This is another black mark for the Immigration Bureau under President Duterte. Since the BI’s issuance of SWPs to that many Chinese nationals did not go through the rigorous DOLE procedure, Secretary Bello did the right thing, albeit too late, when he asked his DOJ counterpart to conduct an investigation into this Chinese “invasion.”
The Senate Labor Committee, chaired by Sen. Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, initiated its own investigation after the DOLE officials discovered that dozens of Chinese nationals were working on Chinese-funded infrastructure projects and the gaming industry without the required DOLE
Villanueva raised the specter of Chinese nationals stealing jobs from Filipinos, aided and abetted by the BI’s lax implementation of immigration laws and working visa rules. He noted that the BI has no jurisdiction to issue work permits since only the DOLE has the “technical knowledge” to assess if allowing foreigners to work here will be detrimental to local workers. The BI had been in the center of controversy early in the Duterte administration when disgraced Immigration Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles were videotaped in a hotel receiving bags of money from lawyers of gaming tycoon Jack Lam.
The involvement of the two deputy commissioners, who had already been fired by President Duterte, was the first controversy that weakened the credibility of the administration’s declared campaign against corruption.
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