CHINESE nationals should be allowed to work on local infrastructure projects funded by China, according to the presidential palace, after reports that Chinese building workers had been hired in two government bridge projects.
China can bring in its own workers in the building projects since these are not funded by Filipino taxpayers, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.
“Because it’s a 100% grant, the Chinese have to be given more flexibility in the decision on whom to hire,” he said, adding that the Philippines would not pay back China for these donations.
“The general rule is foreigners should be hired only when there are not enough Filipinos able and with the capacity to perform the work,” Mr. Roque said. “But again, of course, please realize that this is a 100% donation to us by the Chinese government.”
“These bridges are a hundred percent donations from the Chinese government, he said. “That should give us the proper perspective.”
Senators earlier asked the Public Works department to prioritize Filipinos over foreigners in hiring.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan asked Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar whether the government’s loan agreements with China under its national infrastructure program has a clause that gives preference to Filipino workers.
The lawmaker noted that the construction industry had registered the largest drop in unemployment in the second quarter — an almost 30% fall — so the government must create jobs and protect existing ones.
A number of Chinese nationals had reportedly been hired in building the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge and Binondo-Intramuros bridge.
The two bridges will augment the 30 existing across the Pasig river, Marikina river and the Manggahan Floodway, easing traffic along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and other major roads in Metro Manila.
The first bridge, also known as the Rockwell bridge, is a two-lane box truss bridge crossing the Pasig River. It connects Estrella Street in Makati on the south bank of the Pasig River, near the Rockwell Center mixed-use development, to Pantaleon Street in Mandaluyong on the north bank.
The second bridge will connect San Fernando Street in Binondo to Solana Street and Riverside Drive in Intramuros. The bridge will have four lanes and a steel bowstring arch design with inclined arches, according to plans. It will be 737 meters long.
Public Works Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain earlier said some Chinese workers had been hired because the projects required technical jobs. He said Filipinos would be prioritized in future agreements.
He said Filipino workers account for 55% of the workforce, while Chinese workers make up the rest in the Binondo-Intramuros bridge project.
Filipinos account for 69% of workers in the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge project, and the rest are Chinese nationals, he added. — Gillian M. Cortez