Philippines Detains 48 Undocumented Chinese Working at Steel Plant

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato, Philippines
Philippines Detains 48 Undocumented Chinese Working at Steel Plant Gen. Guillermo Eleazar (right), then the Philippine National Capital region’s police chief, and other police officials present three of 277 Chinese nationals arrested in a raid against an online investment scam syndicate, during a news conference in Manila, Sept. 16, 2019.

Philippine authorities detained four dozen Chinese nationals who were working at a steel plant in the southern Philippines without proper papers, in the latest roundup of undocumented workers in the country, officials said Tuesday.

The 48 Chinese were turned over to Philippine immigration officials after police raided the Panhua Industrial Steel Inc. factory in Sarangani province on Saturday, authorities said Tuesday as they announced details about the operation and mass detention. The raid was part of a nationwide crackdown on undocumented foreigners, police said. 

The workers allegedly gave false information in their work-permit applications, said Maj. Herman Luna, police commander in the town of Maasim where the plant is located. 

“They stated under oath that they used false statements or representations in the documents submitted in support of their application for the issuance of special work permits,” Luna told reporters. 

The foreigners were transferred to the Bureau of Immigration’s custody after they “failed to provide pertinent records such as working permits that could prove the legality of working at the steel plant,” Luna said. 

Last month, authorities rounded up two Chinese, two Indonesians and 32 Koreans who allegedly were working without the appropriate permits at an illegal online gaming company at the Double Dragon Plaza Tower in Manila. 

“We call on all foreigners to legalize your stay,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said. 

“Do not take advantage of the pandemic, because despite the challenges, our work never stops, and we will continue to arrest, deport and blacklist any alien who dares to disobey our laws,” he said. 

His bureau has been cracking down on undocumented people – most of them Chinese nationals – who have entered the country since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in mid-2016. 

Duterte, who sought closer ties to China early on in his presidency in exchange for economic help, has resisted calls to put a freeze on the influx of Chinese workers. 

The president, whose six-year term ends in 2022, has come under increasing pressure to address the issue, analysts have said.

Bribe scheme

As a result, more than 200,000 Chinese workers are employed mostly in the Philippine gaming industry, according to official statistics. The figure could be much higher because some airport and immigration officials allegedly accepted bribes to allow Chinese nationals in.

During a legislative hearing in February 2020, opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte had fired immigration officials linked to a bribery scheme involving border-control officers. An undetermined number of officers took bribes of up to 10,000 pesos (U.S. $208) to allow the Chinese nationals to enter the country, she said.

Many of these workers end up working in online gaming firms where they are vulnerable to kidnapping for ransom.

In January, authorities reported apprehending eight members of a Chinese kidnap-for-ransom gang who were suspected of preying on other Chinese in the Philippines, including one who was killed the month before.

Police also noted having investigated reports of workers in Manila and nearby suburbs being forced into sex slavery, a statement echoed by the U.S. government. 

In its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. State Department noted in its section on the Philippines that “Traffickers increasingly exploit Chinese and other Asian women in commercial sex in locations near offshore gaming operations that cater to Chinese nationals.”


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