Senator Richard Gordon is worried Chinese retirees, mostly 35-year-olds, compose 40 percent of the total foreign retirees in the country, as his colleagues raised the possibility of them secretly working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
Senators grilled Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) General Manager Bienvenido Chy on why they accepted foreigners as young as 35 years old as retirees.
Chy said that in Korea, 35 is the retirement age for the military, “so retirees could be as young as that.”
Gordon asked if they like the Philippines because they can come and go without a visa, and Chy said yes.
At the same time, a transparency watchdog has asked the Chinese Embassy to act and probe reports that Chinese prisoners are being sent to become workers in public work projects in the Philippines.
Officers and members of the Kilos Pinoy Para sa Pagbabago on Tuesday sent a letter to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian asking him to clarify the serious issue.
“In the spirit of cooperation and a desire for greater understanding, the organization would like to voice our apprehension and concern with regards to the proliferation of Chinese workers taking on Philippine public works projects,” KPPP convenor William Espinosa said in the letter.
During the budget deliberation in the committee level for the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies, which include the PRA, Gordon directed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat and Chy to submit a report on the foreign retirees in the country and on the PRA’s policies.
He told Puyat to be savvy enough to know and check what 35-year-old Chinese are doing in the Philippines.
“How can they retire at 35 years old? That is just too young to retire. A retiree has just finished his job and wants to spend his money and later years here in the Philippines…I’m disturbed by it,” he told Chy.
Records show that with 27,678 retirees in the country, the Chinese tops foreign nationals who choose the Philippines for their retirement, and majority of them are 35 years old.
Gordon said the Senate Committee on Tourism should conduct an inquiry aimed at amending pertinent laws to attract more of the old population from other countries such as Japan and the United States.
Aside from the Chinese from the People’s Republic of China, the foreign retirees’ population in the Philippines is comprised of 14.144 Koreans, 6,120 Indians, 4,851 Taiwanese, 4,016 Japanese, 3,704 Americans, 1,870 Chinese from Hong Kong, 1595 British, 792 Germans, 752 Australians, and 4,498 other nationalities.
“For $10,000-20,000 bank deposit (which can be used to pay for $50,000 worth of property, they can secure a special resident retiree visa,” he said.
Senate Labor committee chair Sen. Joel Villanueva said the officials should make sure these people do not end up as illegal workers.
Sen. Nancy Binay said these Chinese people coming in could be working in POGOs, the official designation for firms operating in the Philippines which offer online gambling services to markets outside the Philippines.
In recent Senate hearings, Chinese nationals were discovered to make up 45 percent of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Binondo-Intramuros Bridge Project while in the Estrella-Pantaleon (Makati City) project, 31 percent of the workers there were also made up of Chinese nationals.
The KPPP members said while the Philippine government’s massive construction program was aimed at generating employment, these jobs were not going to Filipino workers.
“President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is billed as a major job generator and a means to spur economic activity, but it is concerning to hear that the jobs being generated are not going to Filipino workers at all,” the group stated.
The group told Xilian they found it “worrisome the reports that these Chinese workers are actually prisoners sent here by Chinese companies for involuntary labor. If true, this makes the Philippines complicit in violating the conventions of the International Labor Organization and basic human rights.”
It said: “As an independent watchdog and think-thank, KPPP would like to call on your honorable office to respond to these allegations and assure both countries that their relations remain above board, fair, and equitable.”