By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday reiterated concern on the increasing number of foreigners reportedly illegally entering and staying in the country – particularly those that are engaged in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).
In an interview with Vice President Leni Robredo during the 35th anniversary of the Norfil Foundation in Quezon City, she once again expressed alarm on the influx of Chinese workers –, particularly in Metro Manila.
“Parang alarming na tayo lahat na nandito sa Metro Manila, makakapagsabi na anywhere we go, parang bigla iyong numbers nila, sobrang dami na,” Robredo said. “Pero blindsided tayo kung ano iyong status [nila] and ano iyong ginagawa [nila],” she added.
For Robredo, the influx of Chinese workers is “alarming” because there are so many “gray areas” regarding their stay and the nature of their business in the country. “As far as the industry is concerned, hindi ko alam [kung alarming] kasi iyong nalalaman ko ngayon, lahat lang haka-haka kaya nga sinasabi ko dapat klaruhin – legitimate businesses ba ito as far as we are concerned or may mga business permits ba sila dito sa Pilipinas to operate?” she asked.
As early as last year, Robredo noted that there were so many questions regarding the POGO in the country. “Iyong information na nakarating sa atin, kaya sila pumupunta dito kasi illegal siya sa China so iyong pinakaunang tanong, bakit tinatanggap natin dito ang isang bagay na iligal sa ibang bansa tapos parang tayo pa iyongiyong nagiging sanctuary nila?”
Robredo also questioned the status of Chinese workers in the country – particularly their status, their compliance with work permits, and their living conditions. These questions, she lamented, remain unanswered. “Maraming katanungan na until now, hindi nasasagot,” she said.
The “conflicting numbers” of Chinese workers, Robredo said, is also an issue. “Maraming mga information na iyong mga pumapasok hindi na lang nagtatrabaho sa POGO pero nagtatrabaho na rin sa construction, nagtatrabaho kung saan-saan so ang tanong baka naagawan ng trabaho iyong dapat sana sa Pilipino,” she added.
Given these pressing and “alarming” concerns, Robredo urged the government to look more closely on the issue and act on it. “Tingin ko kailangang aksyunan ito ng gobyerno at kailangan sagutin kasi iyong pinakamahirap sa lahat nag-i-speculate tayo so kailangang aksyunan,” she said. “Ang daming tanong na hindi natin alam iyong totoo at sana harapin para hindi tayo nalalagay sa confusion,” she ended.
In her message during the event, Robredo also lauded NORFIL for being a “beacon of hope in transformative nation-building, especially when it comes to the wellbeing of Filipino children” urged other stakeholders to find more “sustainable solutions that will help our communities raise healthier and happier children.”