By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent

Taking up the cudgels for local retailers, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian called for the closure of Chinese small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) proliferating in the country, some of which even cater exclusively to Chinese nationals.

Malacañang was particularly disturbed by reports that some of these Chinese establishments keep Filipino customers out. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government cannot allow this to happen.

In a statement, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) said it rallies behind Lacson and Gatchalian in their appeal to keep Chinese firms out of local SME industry. The PRA demanded strict implementation of the minimum investment rule for foreign retailers set at $2.5 million.

By calling for the closure of Chinese restaurants and other businesses exclusively catering to Chinese nationals staying in the country, Lacson called out to prioritize Filipino entrepreneurs.

Lacson also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), local governments and other state agencies to use their authority and keep investors from China out of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“If investors coming from China would do business even in SMEs, that is alarming because many of our countrymen will be deprived of investment opportunities,” he said.

“If they come here with billions of pesos (to invest), there’s no reason why we should not welcome them because that will help our economy to grow,” Lacson said.

“What’s worrisome is if the Chinese investors would … compete in running variety stores, restaurants and merchandising, which only require small investment,” he said.

The Senator’s remarks came after netizens blasted on social media a restaurant in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, called China Food City that barred Filipinos from its premises as it was serving only Chinese workers employed in nearby on-line gaming companies.

There have also been reports that several convenience stores owned by Chinese nationals in Makati and Pasay cities also do not welcome Filipinos.

Gatchalian for his part said the Chinese establishments here operate in violation of the retail trade law that protects local SMEs.

The PRA said it is fighting for the retention of the $2.5-million minimum investment for foreign retailers. “This existing law protects our Filipino SME entrepreneurs,” the statement read. “We now see the proliferation of Chinese restaurants, Korean groceries, foreign operators in our tiangge (flea markets), even before the repeal of the existing law.”

The PRA said it is “speaking for the future of our small Filipino entrepreneurs” in calling for the retention of minimum investment for foreign retailers at $2.5 million. “Large retailers apparently can hold their own against their foreign competitors but not small retailers.”

On reports that some Chinese establishments serve only fellow Chinese, Panelo at Malacañang said, “They cannot be discriminating against Filipinos. It’s public business and therefore should cater to all.”

Panelo said they would ask Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III to look into reports of establishments that are exclusively for Chinese nationals. He also advised Filipinos to avoid confrontation if ever they encounter “Chinese-only” establishments.

“The better step, or thing to do, is to file a complaint. If you engage the owner or try to force yourself in, you will only trigger a fight,” Panelo said.

“It’s bad enough that there is discrimination when we go to western countries, you can see that there are still some countries with strong racial discrimination whether they admit,” Lacson said.

“But we are here in our own country, you will not be allowed to enter and eat in a Chinese restaurant? And you are Filipino? That should be closed,” the Senator added.