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Thursday, February 29, 2024

BI urged to work with Pagcor to lace illegal foreign workers

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Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III urged the Bureau of Immigration to work closely with the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and law enforcement agencies in weeding out illegal foreign workers in the country.

The Department of Labor and Employment reported last week that it had initially uncovered some 12,000 foreign nationals without the necessary work permits employed in various establishments, most of them Philippine online gaming operators.

In a recent meeting with members of the interagency task force created to monitor and list down the number of foreign nationals working for POGOs, Dominguez learned from DoLE that out of 148 establishments employing around 37,000 workers inspected so far, 12,000 foreign nationals in 33 POGOs lacked the necessary permits from the immigration and the labor  department.

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In a related development:

• To ensure the primordial protection and promotion of interests of the ordinary Filipino worker, Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill to amend to Republic Act 8182, or the Official Development Assistance law, to require foreign bidders and contract awardees to hire local workers for manual and non-technical jobs. 

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, noted that ordinary Filipino workers are deprived of the opportunity to work and partake in the benefits of the loans that Filipino taxpayers will be paying for under the existing ODA law.

Senate Bill 2223 seeks to remedy this by requiring foreign bidders or contract awardees coming from ODA donor countries to employ or hire Filipino workers to perform manual, non-technical, or other analogous labor in carrying out these development projects.

He said SBN 2223 in fact embeds in the ODA law the Bureau of Immigration’s supplemental guidelines for special and provisional work permits for foreign nationals, as enumerated in BI’s Operations Order No. JHM-2019-002 issued on Jan. 30, 2019.

DoLE’s Bureau of Local Employment Director Dominique Tutay also reported during the same meeting that DoLE found 20 POGOs were not in PAGCOR’s list of registered service providers.

Tutay said her report only covered the first two batches of establishments inspected. The next batch will cover the special economic zones and even dining places employing foreign nationals.

Bureau of Internal Revenue deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa, for his part, reported that after validating and checking for duplications, the initial raw data showing 138,000 issued working permits to foreign nationals collated from various offices was trimmed to 122,397 foreign workers and would be subject to further validation.

Dominguez, who wants personal income taxes collected from foreign nationals employed by POGOs, said the Immigration, Pagcor, DoLE and law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation should get their act together to weed out illegal aliens working here.

“Why don’t we step on the gas here? He (Guballa) said 122,000 (foreign workers). She (Tutay) already identified another 10 percent that are not registered, 12,000,” Dominguez said. “As I’ve told you last time, BIR has a job to do, to collect taxes. For them to be effective, everybody else has to contribute to their effectivity.”

Dominguez said he would inform President Rodrigo Duterte about the outcome of the meeting and report that “we are making progress, but not fast enough.”

The Finance chief told Immigration’s deputy commissioner Atty. Tobias Javier to prioritize the rounding up of the 12,000 illegal aliens after finding out that the bureau was only able to arrest 393 illegal foreign workers last year.

“For the next meeting, we would like to see movement on the assessment, we would like to see inspections and closure of establishments with illegal foreign workers. So we’d like to see progress. And you know, if there are 12,000 that you found, there must be a lot more, a lot more who are floating around,” Dominguez said.

“This is a crime. It’s a violation of the law,” he said.

Guballa said that from the cleaned-up list, the BIR has so far assessed 19 out of the 204 POGO service providers registered with Pagcor.  The BIR’s computations show a final withholding tax assessment of P1.4 billion combined for these 19 taxpayers for 2018 alone.

The BIR official said that the 19 assessed so far would be given the standard 10 days to reply to the assessments.

Guballa said that for the rest of the service providers, “we are now presently collating all documents and cleansing these as it comes to our office.”

Assessments would then be issued and furnished to each service provider complete with their list of employees, Guballa said.

The BI guidelines state that no application for special work permit or provisional work permit shall be given for manual or non-technical labor, including, but not limited to, the following: construction workers, cashiers, waiters, janitors, household help, carpenters, garbage collectors, security guards, and warehouse caretakers. 

The same guidelines also prohibit the issuance of SWPs or PWPs for positions or professions regulated by the Professional Regulation Commission.

Gatchalian’s bill also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, and Department of Finance to take primary responsibility in monitoring compliance by foreign bidders or contract awardees with Philippine laws, rules and regulations, especially those in the interest and for the protection of Filipino workers.

Under the proposed amendment, the DoLE shall submit to the Congressional Oversight Committee on the ODA Law an annual report detailing whether the winning bidders or awardees of approved development projects funded by ODA loans comply with the guidelines.

Finally, the bill requires the National Economic and Development Authority to publish its findings on the social, environmental, and economic impact of ODA-funded development projects on its website, to promote transparency and ensure accountability among approving authorities and officials.

NEDA is also required to annually publish and update the list of approved development projects funded by ODA loans.

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