By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
IN a Senate hearing last 21 February, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said, “roughly half of the 169,000 Alien Employment Permits issued by the Department of Labor and Employment in the last 3 years went to Chinese nationals and a third of which are in support services, including offshore gaming.” With the “Build, Build, Build”, we can expect to increase the level of Chinese workers to expand, double at the very least. This is a worrisome development, considering that we have a serious unemployment problem and continue to export labor majority of which are women in the service and support sectors. More worrisome is the fact that we have not been able to police our shores, where streams of illegal Chinese continue to land over the years, with the connivance of corrupt local officials and the cuddling of established Chinese locals.
The President, in a speech on 23 February, claimed, “we have 300,000 Filipinos in China” in danger of being kicked out if we become careless “in handling the influx of Chinese workers.” That is not true. It is not logical that China will kick out our workers. China benefits from the “Build, Build, Build” projects in much more than a labor exchange deal. Strategically, it benefits from the Philippines in terms of achieving its new Silk Road Initiative, which will enhance its strategic positioning in the global economic and political order.
Among others, “Chinese manufacturing also stands to gain. The country’s vast industrial overcapacity – mainly in the creation of steel and heavy equipment – could find lucrative outlets along the New Silk Road, and this could allow Chinese manufacturing to swing towards higher-end industrial goods.”
We could have stuck to achieving a very small exchange from this lopsided deal by using our skilled workers in the construction and industrial sectors, especially in the service sector where women excel. Instead, we treated employment opportunities as part of a package deal to Chinese investments, while we continue to deploy Filipinos to various countries, under very dismal arrangements and dangerous working conditions, particularly for the vulnerable sectors, composed mostly of women.
We cannot belittle our role in the global stage. If change has to come, we must be fully appraised of the benefits we bring to the achievement of strategic goals of global players and negotiate on the strength of our strategic importance in the region. We cannot be dazzled by the softness of the silk, no matter how pleasing it touches our skin, lest it totally tightens around our fragile bodies while we dream.
Composers Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox of Eurythmics aptly put how we sometimes get so screwed up in our attempt to survive. In their song, “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”, whose title is often thought to be “Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese”, they remind us that the world can be dark, and its intentions disguised in the tempting flavor of the cheese:
“…Sweet dreams are made of this/ Who am I to disagree? I travel the world/ And the seven seas/ Everybody’s looking for something/ Some of them want to use you/ Some of them want to get used by you/ Some of them want to abuse you/ Some of them want to be abused…”
Note: Ms. Pasalo served for six years (2002-2008) as a Member of the Board of Trustees Representing Women in the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
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