Chinese companies found violating labour laws in Philippines

Observers noted that a common feature of China-funded projects is their failure to adequately engage local stakeholders, civil society organizations, and communities to inform, consult, solicit input, or address their grievances.

One notable aspect that has fuelled resentment and dissatisfaction among recipient countries of Chinese investments is the deployment of Chinese labour in the projects.

China-backed projects’ heavy reliance on imported Chinese labour, inadequate local employment opportunities, weak safeguards for workers’ rights, and lack of training programs are widespread complaints in Southeast Asia.

Excessive reliance on Chinese labour reduces the projects’ benefits to the host countries and generates social tensions and other problems.

Recently, the Samahanng Nagkakaisang Marinong Pilipino (SMNP), a seafarers group of Philippines, has questioned the Department of Labor & Employment (DOLE) and Department of Migrant Workers as to why foreign dredgers were not hiring Filipinos to man their vessels working on these projects.

They demanded that Chinese dredgers operating in Manila Bay for big reclamation projects should hire Filipino seamen to open high-value jobs in the country.

The SMNP underlined that having these vessels fully manned by foreigners was a disregard for the Filipino seafaring profession.

The group noted that the vessels were supposed to be under a bareboat charter (temporarily under the Philippines flag arrangement) but continued to employ Chinese crew members which should not be allowed by local authorities.

The Philippines regulations stipulate that foreign vessels and their crews cannot operate in the Philippines’ domestic waters unless they are given a special permit by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The SMNP wants the PCG (Philippines Coast Guard), Marina, and DOLE to inspect the foreign vessels, particularly those operated by China Harbour Engineering Corp (CHEC) in reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

CHEC vessels extract sand from the Bucao River in Botolan, Zambales, and dump it in Manila Bay under a sand supply contract with a local company.

Questions are being asked as to how CHEC became the supplier of sand to the multi-billion Manila Bay reclamation projects when it allegedly does not have a permit from the Departments of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) and of Public Works and Highways, as well as the Zambales local government to extract sand from the Bucao River.

The other Chinese company whose vessels were reportedly the subject of an ongoing PCG probe for conducting alleged illegal activity in Manila Bay is the China First Engineering Co., the main contractor of the Waterfront Reclamation Project.

Both companies are under the China Communication Construction Corp. (CCCC), a company whose subsidiaries had dredging vessels blacklisted by the US government in 2020 for allegedly participating in the building and militarizing of the disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

The Philippines government must keep in mind that Chinese companies are known to circumvent the recipient country’s extant rules and regulations to extract benefits in their own favor.

These investments might seem lucrative in the short run, but in the long run, they can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction among the local populace as they deprive them of employment opportunities and push them towards poor living standards.

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