By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent

A public hearing at the Senate conducted by the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources established that the 93 Chinese workers arrested in an on-line gaming facility and 34 caught in a construction site both in Pasay City were just the tip of the iceberg of Chinese nationals working without permits in the Philippines.

Committee chairman Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Chinese are stealing jobs from Filipinos, of whom 9.8 million were jobless as of last September. Villanueva slammed the responsible government agencies for not monitoring the entry of illegal foreign workers in general.

“There is a clear neglect on the part of government agencies in promoting the preferential use of Filipino labor as mandated by the Constitution,” he said.

Sen. Grace Poe for her part urged the immigration bureau to raise the appropriate “red flags” on any work application from Chinese nationals who initially entered the Philippines as tourists.

Poe noted that the presence of illegal Chinese workers is reported in on-line gaming, construction, food and business process outsourcing (BPO) industries.

“Dapat ganito, ‘pag sila ay humingi ng tourist visa, pumunta sila dito, nagpapalit sila ng status, hindi ba dapat red flag na sa atin ‘yon,” Poe asked the concerned agencies.

Officials from the Department of Labor and Emploment (DoLE), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Philippine Amusement Games Corp. (Pagcor), among others, attended the Senate inquiry.

BI admitted that over 3.12 million Chinese tourists have arrived in the country since 2016.

The agency said it issued Special Work Permits to foreigners without Alien Employment Permits.

DoLE also said of the 115,652 Alien Employment Permits it issued from 2015 to 2017, 51,980 of these or almost 50 percent were issued to Chinese nationals.

Villanueva said based on what he saw, the number of Chinese workers could be more than the estimate provided by the labor department. “Personal ko hong nakita parang may people power ang China doon,” said Villanueva, referring to the cities of Makati and Pasay.

“Yung 50,000 na sinasabing Alien Employment Permits eh kulang na dito sa nabanggit natin. Definitely something is wrong,” he said.

Sen. Poe, chair for the Committee on Public Services, said the government should show that it is “serious” in “taking care of our borders.” She said the labor department should provide skills training for Filipino workers to help them compete with the Chinese.

““I think we should have a policy that says unless necessary, they shouldn’t come in here under false pretenses,” said Poe, chairman of the Committee on Public Services. “Otherwise we will be encouraging more influx of that kind of situation here and we don’t have the expertise to actually evaluate,” she added.

Poe added, “Obviously niloloko lang tayo. Sabi nila turista sila ‘yun pala may balak naman pala sila ditong magtrabaho.”

“Sa umpisa pa lang dapat tinitigil na natin ‘yon, kung turista ka tapos humingi ka ng work permit para mag-extend, ‘wag na nating payagan ‘yon,” she said.

“Maraming mga Pilipino ang sa tingin ko nawawalan ng trabaho dahil napapayagan ito,” she said.

Other senators expressed concern over the dire effects on the local work force of the growing number of Chinese nationals working in the Philippines, legal or illegal.

“There is a clear neglect on the part of government agencies in promoting the preferential use of Filipino labor as mandated by the Constitution,” Villanueva said.

The Senate hearing came on the heels of the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines in which he signed a string of trade agreements with President Duterte.