Malacañang said that the Chinese government should be given more flexibility in hiring workers in the construction of the two bridges that China is funding in Metro Manila.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after senators pointed out that 31 percent of the workers in the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge are Chinese and that 45 percent of workers in the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge are Chinese.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque said that people should understand that the said infrastructure projects were 100 percent donated by the Chinese government.
“Let me highlight that these bridges are 100-percent donations from the Chinese government. I think that should give us the proper perspective,” he told “The Source” on Wednesday.
“It’s being given to us 100 percent, we don’t pay back anything for the building of these bridges. That’s why we have to give them some flexibility in the personnel that they hire,” he added.
“Although, we would appreciate it, of course, if the Chinese government should employ more Filipinos,” he continued.
According to Roque, it would have been a different scenario if the Philippines was the one funding the construction of the two bridges.
“Had this been a project that we will pay for using taxpayers’ money, of course, [the] government will insist that aside from highly technical positions, Philippine labor should be employed,” he said.
“The general rule is foreigners should be hired only when there is not enough Filipinos able and with the capacity to perform the work. But again, of course, please realize that this is 100 percent donation to us by the Chinese government,” he added.
The Palace official, however, said he will discuss the issue with the departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Labor and Employment (DOLE) to see if the government can insist on China that more Filipinos should be hired.
“I will also discuss this issue with both the DPWH and the Department of Labor and Employment to see if we can, in fact, insist that more Filipinos should be hired,” he said.
“But my gut feel is that because it is 100 percent grant, the Chinese have to be given more flexibility on the decision whom to hire,” he added.
On Tuesday, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar assured the Senate that local products and Filipino workers will be prioritized in government construction projects.