Only 25% of workers in bridge project are Chinese, says embassy

MANILA, Philippines — Only 25 percent of workers building the China-funded Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge are Chinese, according to the Chinese Embassy, disputing senators’ remarks about the labor force in the project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The Chinese Embassy issued the statement as Malacañang said on Wednesday that the Chinese government should be given “flexibility” on the hiring of workers in the project, as well as in the other China-funded Binondo-Intramuros bridge project.

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Senators earlier questioned the high proportion of Chinese workers in both projects.

Quoting Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, the embassy said Filipinos comprised 75 percent of the workforce for the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge. “The contractor, China Road and Bridge, is still hiring more local workers for the project, though it is a bit difficult to recruit enough qualified local employees amid under GCQ (general community quarantine),” it said.

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Technical requirements

“The Chinese employees are mostly program managers, engineers and technicians, whose job could not be done by Filipino workers given the technical requirements,” the embassy said.

All of them, it added, had obtained work permits from the Department of Labor and Employment.

The 506-meter Estrella-Pantaleon bridge will connect Estrella Street in Makati City to Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong City, and is expected to be completed in the early half of 2021. According to the DPWH, it will have four lanes from the previous two lanes and will accommodate an average of 50,000 vehicles, per day.

‘World-class bridge’

The Chinese Embassy described the structure as “a future world-class bridge financed by a grant from the People’s Republic of China.”

“Both China and the Philippines have been striving for economic development and social progress,” it said. “China stands ready to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and accelerate the implementation of cooperation projects to stimulate economic recovery and growth of the Philippines.” —TINA G. SANTOS

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