02/28/2019, 15.08
PHILIPPINES
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Duterte turns a blind eye on undocumented Chinese. For Mgr Santos, this is unfair towards Filipinos

There should be “No exception, no special treatment". The prelate responds to the president, who is against deporting undocumented Chinese because it might lead to Filipinos deported from China. About 74 per cent of the 533 foreigners arrested in the Philippines in 2018 were Chinese.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Tolerating the flow of undocumented Chinese migrants is "unfair to Filipinos", says Mgr Ruperto Cruz Santos (pictured), bishop of Balanga and president of the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People.

The prelate told CBCP News that immigration legislation must be applied in all cases, regardless of nationality or status. “Their entry, stay and work must be legal, and if not, so apply the law. No exception, no special treatment,” Santos said.

The bishop was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on 23 February discouraging the deportation of undocumented Chinese workers in the Philippines. During an election rally in the province of Laguna, Duterte said they should be allowed to stay and work.

Often criticised for his conciliatory policies towards Beijing, the president defended his view by comparing the situation of Chinese migrants to that of Filipinos in China. "That’s why I can’t tell them to leave, deport them. What if they make the 300,000 Filipinos there leave?”

In 2016, the Filipino consulate in Hong Kong estimated that some undocumented 200,000 Filipinos worked as helpers in China.

Duterte stressed that “there is a distinct possibility” that deportation would also happen to Filipinos in China so we must avoid “getting rough on this issue.”

In early February, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration reported that 74 per cent of the 533 foreigners arrested in 2018 were Chinese nationals.

On 7 February, immigration officials arrested 30 Chinese nationals working illegally in several establishments in Parañaque City (Metro Manila).

Mgr Santos rejected the claim coming from the presidential palace (Malacañang) that Chinese workers fill a gap because of a lack of skilled Filipinos, especially in the construction sector.

“It could be that we are not giving them work and chose to give work to other nationalities. And thus, it is unfair treatment to our fellow Filipinos,” he explained.

The prelate urged the government to ensure that Filipinos are not robbed of job opportunities in their own country.

“Prioritise them, Filipinos first and give them work here so that there will be no need of going abroad,” Santos added.

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