The government will investigate reports that some Chinese establishments allegedly refuse to accept Filipino customers out of exclusivity to only cater to Chinese nationals, Malacañang said on Monday.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Chinese-run businesses could not be discriminating against Filipinos.
“We have to investigate that if that is true. We cannot allow that to happen. They cannot be discriminating against Filipinos; It’s a public business, therefore, it should cater to all,” Panelo said.
According to him, the Palace will tap the Department of Labor and Employment to verify complaints against the supposed rejection of Filipino customers.
“We have to investigate first the truth of the report. We will ask [Labor] Secretary Bello to conduct an investigation on the same,” he added.
The Palace official then advised Filipinos, who have experienced the said problem, could lodge a complaint with the Department of Trade and Industry or the concerned local government unit.
“The better step or thing to do is to file a complaint. [If] you engage the owner or try to force yourself, then you will only trigger a fight,” Panelo said.
“If there is a complaint and they validate that it has violated a law, then the LGU should do their job.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson previously urged the government to shut down establishments exclusively catering to Chinese nationals in the country.
For Lacson, Filipinos might be treated like second-class citizens in their own country if the alleged action persists.
He also claimed that allowing Chinese nationals to put up small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country could deprive Filipino entrepreneurs of the same opportunities.
“If investors coming from China would do business even in SMEs, that will be alarming because many of our countrymen will be deprived of investment opportunities,” he said.
“[I]f they come here with billions of pesos [to invest], there’s no reason why we should not welcome them because that will help our economy to grow,” Lacson said.
“What’s worrisome is if the Chinese investors would compete in running variety stores, restaurants and merchandising, which only require small investment money,” he said.
In his visit to Beijing last week, the President vowed to leaders of Philippine and Chinese business conglomerates that the government would create an enabling environment that allows prospective foreign investors’ business establishments and investments to prosper.
In a related development:
• Senator Aquilino Pimentel III noted that business firms operating in the Philippines were not allowed to discriminate.
“Limiting customers to Chinese people only is a form of discrimination,” he said.
Pimentel said if Filipino-owned business establishments were not allowed to do this then all the more foreign-owned businesses here in the Philippines should not be allowed to do what Filipinos could not do under the law.
He said the law must be enforced evenly especially that this form of discrimination was directed against the Filipino.
“If the Filipino is the victim of the discrimination! Close them down for violating the constitution,” further stated the former Senate President.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor and employment committee, said all establishments, whether MSMEs or large corporations, must comply with our laws on nationality, such as the Retail Trade Law and the MSME Law.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry should be monitoring the existence of these establishments and ensure they adhere to prevailing laws and regulations.
Meanwhile, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan said on Monday that Filipino workers would be prioritized in China-assisted infrastructure projects in the Philippines and that Chinese workers would only be needed in “highly-technical” work.
Batan made the statement as Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attended the joint hearing of the Committees on Appropriations and Transportation and Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures which reviewed and assessed the performance and expenditures of the Department of Transportation for fiscal years 2017 to 2019 and its 2020 budget proposal.
“[It was an] undertaking by our Chinese counterparts that the workers, not just for the PNR [Philippine National Railway] Bicol but for all of the China ODA [Official Development Assistance] funded projects, will be Filipinos and this is why they are establishing a training facility upfront,” Batan said.
“(T)hey will only be bringing the Chinese nationals for the highly-technical requirements of the project… and that they will pay taxes accordingly,” he added.
During the hearing, Batan also told lawmakers that Chinese nationals whose expertise would be tapped for China-assisted infrastructures in the country will “pay taxes accordingly.”
Batan said the Chinese government would finance a training facility in Bicol for Filipinos who would work on the P175-billion PNR Bicol Express reconstruction.
He added the procurement and the awarding of the contract is expected to materialize by the third quarter of 2019.
Batan added the Bicol Express project that was signed in November 2018 hopes to cut the 13-hour average land travel to from Manila to Legazpi, Albay, to five or four hours. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz