By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima filed a resolution urging the Senate to probe the unusually heavy influx of Chinese nationals working in the Philippines.
The implication is that this could be an off-shoot of the country’s cozying up to China rather than confronting it for its encroachments in the West Philippine Sea.
She filed this resolution even as Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana admitted the Philippines is “friendly” with China since it could not afford to take confrontation as an option.
He gave assurances that defense of territories being encroached upon by countries like China is top priority for the country’s armed forces. Lorenzana admitted, however that the Philippines is not, by a long shot, capable of defending disputed territories in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
“At present, we don’t have any capabilities. We don’t have capital ships, we don’t have the weapons,” Lorenzana said in a TV news in Singapore where he is attending the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 17th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The Defense chief said the only airstrip Manila has in the disputed Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Island Group) is being repaired. “Our sole airstrip in Pag-asa is still very short and we are also trying to pave it so we can bring in our aircraft anytime,” he said.
The AFP has several aircraft and ships intended for maritime patrol such as the C-90 patrol plane donated by Japan to the Philippine Navy, which was used by the Northern Luzon Command to patrol the Scarborough Shoal also known locally as Bajo de Masinloc.
Lorenzana said the Philippines cannot do anything about China’s claims in the South China Sea. “I think all we can do now is (file a) diplomatic protest and talk to them. There is nothing we can do,” he said.
He cited China’s refusal to honor the ruling of the arbitral tribunal invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash line claim in the disputed sea. “But since China won’t accept it, what can we do?
And China, in fact, during the pendency of the arbitral ruling, double timed the reclaiming of the reefs,” he added.
In De Lima’s view, China also redoubled its efforts to send its jobless nationals to the Philippines. De Lima said Chinese nationals who move into the country not only steal jobs from ordinary Filipinos but also trigger a surge in property prices in commercial areas.
“With the influx of Chinese nationals employed and residing in the Philippines, there is a dangerous possibility of the real estate market pricing Filipinos out of their homes, especially in areas near businesses that heavily employ Chinese nationals, like casinos and resorts,” De Lima said in a statement.
The detained senator wants the Senate to see if the government can properly enforce immigration and labor laws.
“The increasingly lax control mechanisms over the influx of Chinese nationals in the Philippines have led to concerns on whether we have enough capability to properly enforce our immigration and labor laws to the detriment of our national interest,” she said.
De Lima cited a 33.4 percent increase — from 28,371 in 2015 to 41,993 in 2016—in the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) granted to foreign nationals who intend to work in the Philippines.
She also cited reports that of the 1,508 foreigners deported in 2017 by immigration authorities, 1,248 were Chinese nationals, some of whom were arrested for involvement in illegal on-line gaming operations in Clark, Pampanga.
According to De Lima, about 200,000 mostly Chinese workers have arrived in the country since late 2016 after President Duterte awarded licenses to more than 50 offshore gambling companies that cater to overseas Chinese gamblers.
“The surge of AEP issuance means there is a number of available jobs in the Philippines, even while Filipinos continue to seek opportunities abroad and unemployment remains a concern,” she said.