Saying published allegations about illegal foreigners working in the construction sector in the country has been investigated as early as September 2013, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said any one, including the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines which had raised the issue, can file formal opposition to alien employment permit applications which are public documents.
This was Secretary Baldoz’s response to the TUCP which again yesterday raised the issue, expressing fear of Chinese and other foreign workers “slowly taking over the country’s labor market”.
“Applications for the issuance of alien employment permits are published in newspapers of general circulation. Anyone who opposes the issuance of an AEP to a foreigner-applicant can file an opposition with our regional offices. That is the process. I hope the TUCP and all stakeholders will file their opposition, if they have concerns, to help the government weed out illegal foreign workers in the country,” said Baldoz, adding:
“The publication of an AEP application is a labor market test requirement of the Labor Code. Its purpose is to let the public know that a company is hiring a foreigner with a particular skill which may not be available locally. Anyone who can prove otherwise should come forward and file an opposition.”
Baldoz said the AEP guidelines authorizes representatives of DOLE regional directors to conduct ocular inspection to verify legitimacy of employment of foreign national and a verification inspection of the establishment employing foreign nationals within 30 days after issuance of the AEP. The penalty on foreign nationals working without AEP is a fine of P10,000 for every year, or a fraction thereof.
“The regional director can also deny an AEP application, or revoke an issued AEP. This is also in the guidelines,” Baldoz said.
She explained that as a matter of procedure, DOLE regional directors also check the employment contracts of these foreign nationals, mayor’s permit to operate the business, and certification from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, if the company is located in an economic zone.
The DOLE, according to Baldoz, has been successful in weeding out illegal foreigners in the local labor market, saying that in Central Luzon for instance, 10 Chinese workers are awaiting deportation by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) after they were found to have no AEPs.
“The BID is also conducting investigation of 70 Chinese workers said to be hired by a company called Scitel Customer Care Phils., Inc. who were issued visas but allegedly there were misrepresentation of information in their application,” said Baldoz, quoting a report of BLE Director Dominique Rubia-Tutay.
She also said for its efforts to strictly enforce the AEP law, the Philippine Overseas Construction Board (POCB) commended it in December. The commendation was in the form of a resolution thanking the DOLE for its immediate response to the call of the Philippine construction industry to check the working permits of foreign workers in local construction projects.
“The POCB has learned from foreign contractors, who are also working in projects they are involved with, that they are now more cautious in employing foreign workers and now ensure compliance with the requirements of Philippine laws, particularly the AEP,” said POCB Chairman Isidro A. Consunji in a letter to Secretary Baldoz transmitting the resolution.
Baldoz reiterated that DOLE regional offices, notably DOLE National Capital Region and DOLE Regional Office Nos. 3 and 4-A, had conducted investigation of the allegations immediately after the TUCP raised the matter in September last year.
“In fact, DOLE Regional Office No. 4-A Director Zenaida Angara-Campita, acting on an official information, conducted an investigation even before the TUCP allegation came out, and had found out that 13 Chinese nationals have been working for a large construction company in Batangas without any AEP. She ordered the company employing the Chinese workers to comply with the AEP requirement,” Baldoz recalled.
She further said the DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment had met with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) on the matter to improve mechanics of coordination in the grant of working visas to foreign nationals.
“This is about strictly enforcing the revised rules for the issuance of alien employment permits (AEPs) which our regional offices have direct responsibility. I have already instructed the two regional directors concerned–and in fact this goes true with the other DOLE regional directors–to look into this matter and, if found to have basis, act to strictly enforce the rules,” said Baldoz.
She said her order to the regional directors include the inventory check of the data bases of foreign nationals issued the AEP and cross-checking this with the companies that applied for the AEPs in their respective areas of jurisdiction.