Pasig River bridge grants allow hiring of Chinese blue-collar workers – DPWH

Aika Rey

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Pasig River bridge grants allow hiring of Chinese blue-collar workers – DPWH
The DPWH says this arrangement is allowed in the agreement that Manila signed with Beijing in May 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Public Works and Highways confirmed that there are Chinese workers employed for blue-collar jobs in the P3.6-billion China grant for Pasig River bridges.

At the Senate hearing on the proposed P543-billion DPWH budget for 2020 on Monday, September 23, Senator Joel Villanueva asked about the grant, saying that he saw Chinese construction workers as he passed by the construction area of the Estrella-Panteleon Bridge in Makati.

Public Works director Virgilio Castillo said there is a total of 55 Chinese workers for the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge project and another 40 workers for the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge grant.

Asked whether all of them were technical consultants, Castillo said: “Not all [but] most of them.”

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, Senate finance commitee chair, reminded DPWH that the Labor Code allows the employment of foreign nationals only if locals don’t have the technical expertise required by a project.

But Castillo said the hiring of these workers was allowed under the agreement with Beijing.

Villanueva pressed DPWH: “Did you agree with that?”

Castillo answered: “It’s part of the exchange of notes.”

Coming to Castillo’s aid, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said that “international treaties have [their] own personality.”

“For one, it’s a grant. This is aid given to us. Secondly…there are certain skills and certain technologies that do require Chinese workers,” Villar said.

PUBLIC WORKS. DPWH Secretary Mark Villar defends the P543-billion proposed 2020 budget of his office on September 23, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The deal, called the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation, was signed for the Philippines by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez in May 2019. 

The grant allows China to conduct the survey, design, and construction of two bridges along the Pasig River.

Chinese firm CCC Highway Consultants Company Ltd is doing the engineering design, while China Road and Bridge Corporation is conducting the civil works.

“For our part, we make sure that those Chinese workers working on our projects are there for special skills and not taking away jobs from our fellow countrymen,” Villar said. –

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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