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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Even administration senators have rejected Duterte policy to allow Chinese tourists to stay and work here sans visa/work permits. It's not only unfair to other nationalities, it's outright dangerous to our country, and deprives our own labor force of opportunities for gainful employment.



 Macapagal Boulevard by Manila Bay houses many online gambling, call centers and other businesses operated by Chinese nationals who entered PH as tourists and have stayed without working permits from the BID. Filipino lawmakers are up in arms against this policy of the Duterte administration. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you readers have a chance to walk along Macapagal Boulevard near the reclamation areas in Pasay all the way to the Cultural Center, you might think that you are not in PH but somewhere in China---even the restaurants' names are in Chinese.  This is because you will meet scores and scores of Chinese youngsters there and hardly any Filipinos. In this area where the Chinese have conglomerated, they're working in on-line casinos, BPOs such as  call centers and various types of businesses that rake in profits for them.

 So what's wrong with that? A lot. For one thing, many Chinese youths have no working papers here, as they entered the country as tourists and have failed to exit. Apparently the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) has allowed these Chinese tourists to remain beyond their departure date here. Under normal circumstances, they're already illegally staying---and YET THEY WORK IN VARIOUS JOBS THAT SHOULD BE DONE BY FILIPINOS. . 

This situation of foreigners working without necessary immigration papers/work permits won't be knowingly tolerated anywhere in the world. To be sure, many Filipinos have done the same thing in  the US and in Europe, where their relatives could hide their existence for a while. But sooner or later the long arm of the law catches up with them and they are deported---and the relatives who hide them get into hot water too. 

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Taxi drivers I talk to have nothing but tall tales about mushrooming Chinese enclaves in the metropolis. These foreign nationals have snapped up many condominiums, particularly the moderately-priced in Pasig and other environs, as well as in Bonifacio Global City. From various accounts whole villages south of Manila, such as Ayala Alabang now cater mainly to Chinese ex-tourists who don't seem to mind the jacked-up rentals all over the metropolis.  

There is now a huge scarcity of  Filipino drivers as they prefer employment by the Chinese---who reportedly pay drivers as high as P26,000 monthly, as against the P15, 000 to P17,000 paid by Filipino employers. The same is true of Filipino housemaids and secretarial staff---they are paid far more handsomely.

From what appears in the news, the plan is to create enclaves of Chinese businesses all over the country, particularly in the various economic zones.

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When the news broke out about the Chinese "invasion" of the Philippines it was met with alarm in various quarters, particularly since the BID has been very remiss in running after "tourists" without papers and abusing the country's hospitality. What was most interesting, however, was the way President Duterte defended the BID's policy not to raise the hackles of the Chinese. Mr. Duterte was quick to give the impression that he has been aware of this super-lenient policy toward Chinese tourists working here, and that in fact, the BID's leniency has his blessings.

The President's reasoning went something like this: if we throw out the tens of thousands of Chinese working here without  working visas, the Chinese government might retaliate and throw out the 300,000 Filipinos whom he claims have been working in China. In a subsequent disclosure Mr. Duterte upped the number of Pinoys in China to 400,000. Frankly many people question this number---in HongKong there may be as many as 200,000 Filipinos working as domestics there, but in mainland China there are not that many Pinoy workers as its doors have not opened to massive foreign workers' entry. 

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It is hard to imagine that this same President who did not seek to spare the lives of youths said to be indulging in prohibited drugs could become so tolerant of tens of thousands of Chinese "tourists" working here without work permit. One reasonable explanation for Mr. Duterte's turning a blind eye toward this anomalous situation may be the fact that China---with its booming economy---is funding a good number of big-ticket items in the President's "Build, Build, Build" program. Among these huge projects funded by the Chinese goernment are the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge along the Pasig River, worth P4.61B and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge also along the Pasig, P1.37.B. 

But these are tiny projects compared to some 35 gargantuan ticket items identified and approved in the NEDA Report as of Nov. 30, 2018---12 of which would be covered by Chinese loans and grants. In addition, also in the pipeline are a total of 75 flagship projects of Mr. Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program that's aimed at ushering what's termed as the "golden age of infrastructure" under his administration which ends in 2022.  

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The biggest China-funded project will be P173.32B Philippine National Railways South Long Haul, which will connect Metro Manila to Bicol via a 639 km. rail project extending to Matnog in Sorsogon, aimed to be finished by 2022. 

There's also the P50.03B Subic-Clark Railway, totaling 71,13 km., including a 64.14 mainline between Clark Freeport Zone and Subic Bay Freeport Zone, as well as a 6.94 km. spur line connecting the mainline to Subic Bay Port New Container Terminal. All to be funded by China. 

Admittedly, there's a lot of projects here to be funded by the Chinese economy--- now the richest in the world, But there's also the nagging worry about how our tiny country and economy, apparently already held in the bag by our super-power neighbor to the north, would be able to exercise its rightful sovereignty---given the way the BID is looking the other way as far as illegal workers are concerned.  Will PH be forever a tiny vassal state of China? Independence begins with the exercise by our country of its right to demand proper documentation of every alien entering this country. To give up on this right is to yield our country---famous for heroes who gave their lives for its sovereign independence---without any legitimate move at all. 

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