By Ben Rosario
As serious concerns are being aired over the rising number of foreign workers in the country, the House of Representatives has taken a big step in addressing the problem by approving on second reading a bill that will strengthen regulations in the hiring of foreign nationals by local firms.
Approved during a recent session was House Bill 8368 which proposes to amend Articles 40, 41 and 42 of Title II, Book 1 of Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the “Labor Code of the Philippines.”
Authored by resigned Rep. Karlo Nograles, HB 8368 seeks to adopt the Labor Market Test as basis in determining nonavailability of a qualified and willing Filipino national to do services, for which the foreign national is being hired.
HB 8368 mandates that foreign nationals, who are issued employment permits, shall transfer their skills and technology to Filipino understudies within a prescribed period.
It also increases fines and penalties for violations by foreign nationals and their employers to deter transgressions.
Approval of the measure came in the wake of reports that at least 400,000 foreign workers are currently employed by various local firms.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that if the figures are indeed correct, this will indicate that there are over 250,000 foreigners illegally employed in the Philippines.
HB 8368 proposes to regulate the entry of foreign workers whose employment contributes to the worsening unemployment record in the country.
Under the bill any foreign national and his employer, who violate Articles 289 and 290 of the Labor Code, shall pay a fine of P50,000 to P100,000 or suffer imprisonment of six months to six years, or both, at the discretion of the court.
In addition, the alien worker shall be deported after serving his sentence.
The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall impose a fine of P50,000 for every year of fraction thereof to both the foreign national found working without valid employment permit and his employer.
All nonresident foreign nationals seeking employment in the Philippines shall obtain an employment permit from the DOLE.
An employment permit may be issued to a nonresident foreign national subject to a Labor Market Test based on the nonavailability of qualified and willing Filipino nationals.
After the issuance of an employment permit, the foreign national shall not transfer to another job or change his employer without prior approval of the DOLE secretary.
Subject to existing laws and agreements and after consultation with the National Tripartite Industry Peace Council, the DOLE secretary shall grant exemption to foreign nationals from the Labor Market Test where there is a short supply of qualified and willing Filipino nationals in industries, occupations and professions.
Any employer shall submit a list of such nationals to the DOLE secretary and concerned regional director who has jurisdiction over the employer within 30 days after hiring, indicating their names, citizenship, foreign and local addresses, nature of employment, and status of stay in the country.
The DOLE secretary shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the Act.