Lapid wants licensing board to limit foreign contractors in PH

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 06:34 PM | Updated as of Oct 22 2020 11:42 AM

Construction workers repair a portion of Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City on May 1, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file​

MANILA - Sen. Lito Lapid has filed a bill empowering a licensing board in the Philippines to regulate the entry of foreign contractors in the country, saying this would protect local players from being eased out in the industry.

Senate Bill No. 1889, filed Oct. 14, seeks to "grant the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) with the sufficient regulatory tools" to ensure that "foreign firms may only be issued a special license for a specific single project."

"It therefore behooves upon the government to implement sound policies and interventions to protect the local construction industry," Lapid said in the bill, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has "derailed" the output of the construction industry in the Philippines.

Under the proposal, foreign contractors are required to commit to the following conditions before they can be allowed to build in the Philippines:

  • Designate a Filipino resident agent
  • Ensure technology transfer, skills trainings and capacity building of local contractors
  • Only undertake a foreign financed / internationally-funded project
  • Only employ Filipino nationals, except for highly-technical positions determined by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  • Only use locally-sourced construction materials and components, except for items that are not locally available

Last week, senators found that nearly half of the workers building the Binondo-Intramuros bridge in Manila are Chinese nationals, instead of Filipinos.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said that he would file a separate bill that would prohibit foreign companies from bidding in public construction projects worth below P2 billion after the Supreme Court ruled that Republic Act 4566, or the Contractors' License Law, does not "limit foreign firms from getting contractors' licenses" in the Philippines.

"The effect is Chinese corporations can now participate all the way down to barangay-level projects," Zubiri said in an online press conference last week.

"Let us employ Filipinos. Let us employ our kababayans (countrymen). 'Wag naman po 'yung mga taga-ibang bansa," he said.

(Let us not employ foreigners.)

On Sunday, a group of contractors opposed a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow foreign firms to enter the local construction industry.

House Bill No. 7337, authored by Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian, seeks to revise the Contractors’ License Law by allowing "persons, regardless of nationality or citizenship, properly licensed and registered" to practice construction contracting.

Watch more in iWantTFC