Mon Tulfo refuses to apologize for calling Filipino workers ‘lazy’

Aika Rey
Mon Tulfo refuses to apologize for calling Filipino workers ‘lazy’
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines come to the defense of Filipino workers who, they say, are known worldwide for their dedication, diligence, and trustworthiness

MANILA, Philippines – Special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo refused to apologize for  calling Filipino workers “incompetent and inefficient,” amid the influx of Chinese workers in the country.

In a tweet on Saturday, March 9, Tulfo said, “Why should I apologize to you for telling the truth that you’re basically lazy and a slowpoke?”

Tulfo drew flak when he claimed that Chinese workers “are better” than Filipino workers, as he defended the influx of Chinese workers in the country during an interview with CNN Philippines’ “On The Record” on Thursday, March 7.

“Alam mo bakit nila preferred, ‘yung mga developers, ‘yung mga Chinese worker? Masipag. ‘Yung mga Pinoy worker, mawalang galang na, ‘pag pupunta sa job site saka lang doon magpe-prepare ng kanilang tools – whereas ‘yung mga Chinese preparado na – tapos sigarilyo nang sigarilyo, salita nang salita,” Tulfo said.

(Do you know why the developers prefer Chinese workers? Because they are hardworking. The Filipino workers, pardon me, when they go to the job site, that’s only the time they would prepare their tools – whereas the Chinese workers are already prepared – and then they always smoke cigarettes and talk nonstop.)

In a text message to Rappler, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that he respects Tulfo’s opinion but he disagrees “diametrically.”

“Filipino workers are the best in the world in terms of competence, trustworthiness, and diligence. It’s on the record that our Filipino workers are the most sought after workers in the world,” Bello told Rappler.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) defended Filipino workers, saying that they helped “build” foreign economies because of their hard work.

“Filipino workers’ dedication, diligence, and creativity are known to have built the entire Middle East economies, most parts of Asia, and key parts of America and Europe,” said TUCP President Raymond Mendoza.

“Coming from him as the country’s special envoy to China, these statements are uncalled for, unpatriotic, and acts of betrayal to his countrymen,” Mendoza added.

The Philippines saw a rise in Chinese workers in the country, amid friendlier ties between under President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In August 2017, the Philippine government allowed visas on arrival for Chinese visitors who are part of tour groups of Department of Tourism-accredited operators and businessmen. 

The Philippines recorded more than 7.1 million foreign visitors in the country, with Chinese at 1.26 million tourists in 2018.

Bello earlier admitted  in a Senate probe that Chinese workers in the Philippines first apply for tourist visas before they are granted work permits, should they plan to be employed in the country. (READ: Gov’t income and jobs for Filipinos ‘lost’ to Chinese workers – Villanueva)

From 2015 to 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued 169,893 alien working permits (AEP), 85,496 of which went to Chinese workers. AEPs, valid up to 3 years, are required to get a working visa in the country. (READ: How China’s online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila)

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration said it issued 185,000 special work permits from January to November 2018. Of the current valid SWPs, 64,087 of the total 72,010 were given to Chinese workers.

Some lawmakers have raised the alarm on the development, but Duterte has taken a tolerant stance on the influx of Chinese workers in the country, fearing that China “may deport” illegal Filipino workers there in retaliation. China has since denied it would adopt a “tit-for-tat” approach on Filipino workers in that country. –

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at