Duterte does not favor deporting illegal Chinese workers

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte took a tolerant stance on the influx of Chinese workers in the Philippines.

In his speech at the PDP-Laban event in Laguna, the President said that the number of illegal Chinese workers in the country "equals" the number of undocumented Filipino workers in China.

"'Yung mga Chinese dito, hayaan mo 'yan na dito magtrabaho. Hayaan mo. Bakit? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China kaya hindi ako makasabi, 'Oh, umalis kayo dito. Deport ka doon,'" Duterte said.

(Allow the Chinese work here. Let them be. Why? We have 300,000 Filipinos in China that's why I can't say, "Oh, leave this country. We'll have you deported.")

Duterte then posed the question: "Eh kung umalis 'yung [300,000] of them?" (What if the 300,000 of them were asked to leave?)

The Philippine consulate-general in Hong Kong earlier estimated that 200,000 OFWs are working as maids in mainland China, with most of the workers recruited from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, industry insiders estimated that there are some 100,000 to 250,000 Chinese nationals employed illegally in the country.

In his recent opinion piece on Manila Times, Special Envoy to China Ramon Tulfo described Duterte's stance on illegal Chinese workers as "tolerant." Tulfo wrote the piece after he met with the President, who visited Hong Kong for a "family trip" mid-February.

"The President said there were many Filipino workers who are illegally employed in China, but the Chinese government tolerates their stay as long as they're not committing any crime," Tulfo said.

Rise of Chinese nationals in the Philippines

In November 2018, ABS-CBN reported that the President approved of the deportation of illegal Chinese workers, but should be done "carefully."

Duterte said then that China "has not deported" any illegal Filipino workers yet, citing possible backlash if there would be a government crackdown on undocumented Chinese workers in the Philippines.

But lawmakers and various groups raised alarm over the influx of Chinese workers in the country who "take away" the jobs meant for Filipinos. (READ: Gov’t income and jobs for Filipinos ‘lost’ to Chinese workers – Villanueva)

From 2015 to 2018, Department of Labor and Employment had issued 169,893 alien working permits (AEP), 85,496 of which went to Chinese workers. (READ: How China’s online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila)

AEPs, valid up to 3 years, are required to get a working visa in the country.

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 nationals. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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