Labor chief wants to increase penalties for firms hiring illegal foreign workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello wants to increase penalties for companies hiring illegal foreign workers.

"Kapag may nahuli kami na company na nagpapatrabaho ng foreign national na walang [If we catch a company allowing foreign nationals to work without] AEP (alien employment permit), we can impose penalty and after investigation or inspection, we can order the suspension of the operation," Bello said Thursday.

The DOLE issues the AEPs to foreigners who hope to work in the Philippines for more than six months. If a foreigner decides to take a job in the country for only three to six months, they only need to get a Special Work Permit from the Bureau of Immigration.

Senator Joel Villanueva, head of the Senate's labor committee, said a special provision in the 2019 General Appropriations Act will stop the BI from issuing the short-term permits. 

"Maliit nga lang e (ang penalty). Ten thousand. Dapat 10 million. Per employee dapat. Per offense," Bello said.

[Translation: The penalty is small — only P10,000. It should be P10 million. It should be per employee, per offense.]

Article 40 of the Labor Code states that the DOLE can issue employment permits to non-resident foreigners seeking employment in the country once it determines that there are no Filipinos who can take on the job.

In an earlier interview on CNN Philippines' The Source, Villanueva said only the DOLE has the capacity to check whether jobs sought by foreigners could not be performed by Filipinos.

Once the special provision in the national budget is implemented, only the Alien Employment Permit from the Labor Department will be issued to foreigners, Villanueva said. Unlike the SWP, the AEP requires that a job be published first to ensure no Filipino is willing to take it before it is awarded to a foreigner.

The senator said the BI was able to issue 185,000 SWPs from 2015 to 2017, higher than the 169,000 AEPs issued by DOLE for the same period.