By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz & Rea Cu, November 29 2018; Business Mirror
Image Credit to Manila Bulletin
AMID rising unemployment, lawmakers from the minority bloc have expressed alarm over the increasing numbers of Chinese workers in the country.
However, the state gaming regulator eased public apprehension about Chinese workers edging out Filipinos in the so-called “Pogo” (Philippine Online Gaming Operators) sector, saying the Chinese constitute only a quarter of those employed here.
In a news conference, Minority Leader Danilo E. Suarez of Quezon said the relevant government agencies should carefully watch foreigners who enter the Philippines as tourists and then convert their status by applying for an alien employment permit (AEP).
The Department of Labor and Employment-issued AEP allows foreigners to work in the country for more than three months.
The AEPs are issued to professionals and managers working in the entertainment, online gaming and construction sectors.
The estimates on foreign workers in the country raised in an earlier Senate hearing had reached up to 400,000. At a Senate Labor panel hearing earlier this week, however, it was learned that there were more work permits given by the Bureau of Immigration—with their so-called special work permits or SWPs—than the AEP.
“Whether through legal or illegal means, the increasing number of Chinese nationals working in the Philippines puts our own nationals in a perilous position, in terms of securing gainful employment,” Suarez said.
Suarez, citing a survey, said unemployment among Filipinos increased to 22 percent, or 9.8 million individuals, in the third quarter of the year.
This is almost a 3-point jump from the 19.7 percent in June, or an increase of more than 1 million Filipinos unemployed.
He cited Department of Labor and Employment data that almost 50 percent of the AEPs issued to foreign nationals from 2015 to 2017 went to Chinese nationals.
He added, “our labor laws only allow employment of foreign workers after a determination of the nonavailability of a Philippine national who is otherwise competent, able and willing at the time of application to perform the services for which the foreigner is desired.”
Bureau of Immigration data showed that 304 of the 393 foreign nationals arrested for overstaying their visa or lack of working permit were Chinese.
“These Chinese nationals are employed in online gaming, while some are engaged in construction work. The Bureau of Immigration’s statistics also shows that there is an upward trend in the number of Chinese nationals entering the country since 2015, reaching more than a million in 2017,” he added.
Pagcor: Don’t panic
Meanwhile, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has pointed out that Filipino workers are not at a disadvantage in the online gaming sector.
Pagcor Chairman Andrea D. Domingo reported that only 25 percent of the those employed by the online gaming sector are foreigners while the rest are Filipinos, assuring that foreign nationals are not taking over jobs that could have been for Filipinos.
Jobs that are given to Chinese nationalities are those that require linguistic expertise, Domingo said, adding that, while there are Filipinos who can speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or Hokkien, their diction and accent are different from those of the mainland Chinese.
“You should know the nuance of the language and the culture is also a factor, especially when you give the good news and the bad news, so it’s a different kind of expertise,” Domingo told a Kapihan forum in Manila on Wednesday.
If Filipinos can only meet the requirements and qualifications for the job, online gaming operators would definitely prefer to hire local talent so they can save on labor costs, Domingo pointed out.
“It’s cheaper to hire locally because they will no longer need to worry about accommodation and food. Now because they are all foreigners, the operators need to provide everything and they need to pay higher salary because it’s in foreign currency,” she added.
Pogos are Pagcor-licensed entities offering online games of chance via the Internet exclusively to registered offshore players, excluding Filipinos here and abroad.
In August it was reported that inbound arrivals rose by 9.74 percent to some 4.31 million from January to July 2018.
Department of Tourism (DOT) data showed much of the inbound tourism traffic from China grew by 40 percent to 764,094 arrivals from January to July 2018. China is now the second-largest source of tourists for the Philippines.
In March this year, Pagcor said revenues from Pogos will likely reach P6 billion after the rollout of a third-party audit system to monitor the operations of the 53 Pogos, allowing Pagcor to track the revenues generated by the Pogos in real time.
Last year, revenues from Pogo reached P3.9 billion, and Pagcor expects to double the revenues this year.
License fees for each Pogo operator amount to $200,000, while the application and processing feescost $15,000. On top of the fees, Pagcor requires operators to put a $250,000 cash fund just in case they can’t pay bets that win.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 8368 which strengthens the regulation of employment of foreign nationals in the country.
To implement the employment regulation, the bill seeks to amend Articles 40, 41 and 42 of Title II, Book 1 of Presidential Decree 442, as amended, otherwise known as the “Labor Code of the Philippines”
The bill seeks to adopt the labor market as basis in determining the nonavailability of a qualified and willing Filipino national to do services, for which the foreign national is being hired.
The bill mandates that foreign nationals issued employment permits, shall transfer their skills and technology to Filipino understudies within a prescribed period.
Moreover, the bill increases fines and penalties for violations by foreign nationals and their employers to deter transgressions.