Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) board of trustees would move to repeal its current policy allowing foreigners as young as 35 years old to retire in the Philippines.
"I have directed General Manager (Bienvenido) Chy of the PRA to review and change this long-standing policy. We will move for its immediate repeal," she said in a text message.
The board of trustees, chaired by Romulo-Puyat, is expected to meet soon and reassess the said policy. No specific date as regards the meeting, however, has been identified by the agency.
Lawmakers, during the DOT budget hearing on Monday, grilled Chy for accepting retirees as young as 35 years old, most of whom are Chinese nationals.
Senator Richard Gordon said a large number of Chinese retirees at this age raises concerns since "35 years old is (a) soldier's age."
"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 said.
"(The number) that's several regiments, almost three. That's dangerous, most of them are 35 years old? Why would they retire here at 35?” he said.
Senator Nancy Binay also questioned if the PRA can ensure that these young Chinese retirees are not working nor engaged in the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).
Binay said the number of Chinese retirees is too big and the government might not have the budget to monitor them. She added that at that age, the probability that they are working is big.
Based on PRA data provided by the DOT, some 26,969 Chinese nationals have been allowed to retire in the Philippines, topping the list as of December 2019, followed by 13,912 Koreans; 5,951 Indians; 4,801 Taiwanese; and 3,950 Japanese.
Other foreign retirees include 3,615 Americans; 1,836 Chinese from Hong Kong; 1,571 British; 778 Germans; 743 Australians; and some 4,069 unidentified nationalities.
Meanwhile, there are a total of 14,987 active retirees or those who continue to keep the retirement visa as their status of stay in the Philippines ages 34 to 49 years old.
Of this number, more than 50 percent or 8,130 are Chinese nationals from China, followed by the Koreans at 2,257 and Indians at 1,891.
About 52.63 percent or 36,852 of the total retirees reside within the National Capital Region as of June 30, 2020.
Malacañang on Wednesday said that the Chinese government should be given more flexibility in hiring workers in the construction of the two bridges that China is funding in Metro Manila.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after senators pointed out that 31 percent of the workers in the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are Chinese and that 45 percent of workers in the Binondo-Intramuros bridge are Chinese.
“The people should understand that the said infrastructure projects were 100 percent donated by the Chinese government,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines. “I think that should give us the proper perspective.”
“It’s being given to us 100 percent, we don’t pay back anything for the building of these bridges. That’s why we have to give them some flexibility in the personnel that they hire,” he added.
He said it would have been a different scenario if the Philippines was the one funding the construction of the two bridges.
“Had this been a project that we will pay for using taxpayers’ money, of course, the government will insist that aside from highly technical positions, Philippine labor should be employed,” he said.
“The general rule is foreigners should be hired only when there are not enough Filipinos able and with the capacity to perform the work.
But again, of course, please realize that this is 100 percent donation to us by the Chinese government,” he added.
Roque said he would discuss the issue with the DPWH and the Department of Labor and Employment if the government could insist that more Filipinos be hired in the projects.
Earlier, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar assured the Senate that local products and Filipino workers will be given priority in government construction projects.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the Defense Department and the Armed Forces to investigate the “soft invasion” of 4 million Chinese nationals who arrived in the Philippines since 2017.
“We call on the DND and the AFP to look into the national security implications of what appears to be a ‘soft invasion’ by a foreign power in our shores,” Pangilinan said Wednesday.
In a Senate hearing on Oct. 20, it was revealed that the Bureau of Immigration personnel has been taking bribes of P10,000 per Chinese national allowed entry into the country. Called the “pastillas scheme,” this corrupt practice has garnered as much as P40 billion from the Chinese.
“Where are these 4 million? Are they still here? If they are here illegally is there an organized effort to trace them and have them deported? Also, are there efforts to track the whereabouts and the movements of these foreigners? In the light of the West Philippine Sea conflict, the surreptitious entry of 4 million Chinese nationals is no laughing matter,” Pangilinan said.
Earlier, Pangilinan questioned the employment of Chinese workers in Philippine public works projects when 23 million adult Filipinos are jobless.
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