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Amend ODA law to protect PH workers

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Filipino construction workers aboard a truck on their way to work, 16 Nov 2018. Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking to amend the Official Development Assistance (ODA) law aimed at requiring foreign bidders and contract awardees to hire local workers for manual and non-technical jobs. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian filed a bill amending Republic Act No. 8182, or the Official Development Assistance (ODA) law, aimed at requiring foreign bidders and contract awardees to hire local workers for manual and non-technical jobs, for the “primordial protection and promotion of interests of the ordinary Filipino worker.”

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said “ordinary Filipino workers are deprived of the opportunity to work and partake in the benefits of the loans that Filipino taxpayers will be paying for” under the existing ODA law.

“Senate Bill No. 2223 seeks to remedy this by requiring foreign bidders or contract awardees coming from ODA donor countries to employ or hire Filipino workers to perform manual, non-technical, or other analogous labor in carrying out these development projects,” he said.

The lawmaker said SBN 2223 in fact embeds in the ODA law the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) supplemental guidelines for special and provisional work permits for foreign nationals, as enumerated in BI’s Operations Order No. JHM-2019-002 issued on January 30, 2019.

The BI guidelines state that no application for special work permit (SWP) or provisional work permit (PWP) shall be given for manual or non-technical labor, including, but not limited to, the following: construction workers, cashiers, waiters, janitors, household help, carpenters, garbage collectors, security guards, and warehouse caretakers. The same guidelines also prohibit the issuance of SWPs or PWPs for positions or professions regulated by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

Gatchalian’s bill also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Finance (DOF) to take primary responsibility in monitoring compliance by foreign bidders or contract awardees with Philippine laws, rules and regulations, especially those in the interest and for the protection of Filipino workers.

Under the proposed amendment, the DOLE shall submit to the Congressional Oversight Committee on the ODA Law an annual report detailing whether the winning bidders or awardees of approved development projects funded by ODA loans comply with the guidelines.

Finally, the bill requires the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to publish its findings on the social, environmental, and economic impact of ODA-funded development projects on its website, to promote transparency and ensure accountability among approving authorities and officials.

NEDA is also required to annually publish and update the list of approved development projects funded by ODA loans.