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Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Thursday he plans to file a bill limiting the participation of foreign firms in local public works projects to prevent unfair competition with Filipino contractors.

His measure would address loopholes in Republic Act 4566, or the Contractors’ License Law, which had no specific provision limiting foreign participation in the law, though the Implementing Rules and Regulations did.

This discrepancy was brought to light in a Supreme Court ruling released in March, which decided in favor of the Manila Water Company and the Philippine Competition Commission to void nationality restrictions on construction companies, effectively allowing the entry and participation of foreign construction firms in the industry.

Zubiri relayed the concerns of his constituents in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro who have approached him to express their fears over this ruling.

“They told me, ‘Sen. Migz, paano naman ’yan, sa ruling na ganyan, magkakaroon ng foreign contractors pati sa maliliit na project—sa paggawa ng covered court, pati paggawa ng kanal sa barangay, pwede na po sila pumasok.’”

“My fear is that if we continue to allow foreign contractors to participate in and implement DPWH projects, whether small or large, they will bring in foreign workers, and not hire locally,” he said.

“We have so much manpower here, especially now that the pandemic has displaced so many people from previous jobs. There are also large numbers of displaced OFWs coming home and seeking employment,” Zubiri emphasized.

“We must prioritize them for employment, over foreign workers,” he said.

“Let us allow local construction firms to continue implementing projects that directly benefit local communities, like canals, multipurpose buildings, water supply projects, roads, and such similar projects,” he said.

“These firms hire locals, and I am afraid that these workers will be displaced if we allow foreign firms to come in,” he added.

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