Press Release
May 16, 2015

Jinggoy files bill to enhance regulation of hiring foreign nationals

Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada filed last Monday Senate Bill 2760 which seeks to improve regulation, monitoring and compliance mechanisms for the employment of foreign workers.

The proposed legislation also seeks to make training and transfer of skills and technology mandatory from foreign workers to their local counterparts, as part of the condition for their employment.

The said measure is part of the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) priority legislative measures for the current Congress.

"It is our position that Filipino manpower should always be prioritized in employment, and that in no way should the foreign workers take over job vacancies when there are capable and available Filipino workers around," he asserted.

"Nevertheless, there is also a need to enhance talent pool in order to further develop and strengthen certain industries which calls for entry of foreign workers with specific capacities. And so we should institute a mechanism to properly address this," Jinggoy said.

Sen. Estrada wants application of foreign workers who wish to enter the country for employment to be subject to a Labor Market Test, an instrument to determine the non-availability of a qualified, able and willing person in the Philippines to do the services for which the foreign national is being hired.

Such will be the basis for the issuance of employment permit for the foreign worker.

"It is also way for the country to determine if there is a short supply of workers in specific industries, occupations and professions which probably inhibits the country from increased productivity and industry development," Jinggoy said in the bill's explanatory note.

Nonetheless, SB 2760 authorizes the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions from the Labor Market Test to foreign nationals as well as in industries and professions where there is short supply, but still subject to a tripartite consultation.

Last year, the DOLE has announced 15 skills in the occupational shortage list where they will allow entry of foreign workers. The in-demand but hard-to-fill jobs include chemist, chemical engineer, fisheries technologist, computer numerical control machinist, pilot, aircraft mechanic, among others.

"Only in instances where no local worker is deemed fit to assume certain positions of expertise or proficiency, companies are allowed to take foreign workers into their fold. Through continuous training and knowledge transfer from their foreign counterparts, we wish to plug those employment gaps or skills shortage which eventually should be occupied by our local workers," Sen. Estrada said. The bill imposes a fine of 50,000-100,000 pesos and/or imprisonment of six months to six years should the foreign national and the employer fail to observe the law. The foreigner shall also be subject to deportation after serving his sentence.

Foreign nationals found working without valid employment permit shall also pay a fine of 50,000 pesos for every year employed within the country.

According to the latest Labor Statistics, the DOLE has issued 14,481 Alien Employment Permits (AEP) on 2013. The number is lower compared to those issued on 2012 at 20,911.

Lastly, Senate Bill 2760, which amends Articles 40-42 of the 41-year old Labor Code, seeks to comply with the Philippines' commitment to various multilateral trade agreements and international cooperation accord, like the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) blueprint, wherein the country pledged to review restrictions on the employment of non-residents or foreign nationals.

"This [proposal] is a timely initiative to update the said law as the country modernizes as part of a global community. It is also a show of good faith to countries, regions, and international bodies the Philippines has agreements with that the country is willing to accommodate changes in order to meet its commitments," Jinggoy said. "The proposed amendment is beneficial to the country as it paves the way to an improved but still protective policy on employment of foreign nationals," Estrada maintained.

Senate Bill 2760 is Estrada's 588th bill filed during the 16th Regular Session of the chamber.

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