The failure of the Field Offices of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to ensure that all foreigners in the province comply with existing immigration laws has led to the increase of illegal aliens working in the booming diving industry.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) sitting as a committee of the whole rebuked the representatives of both agencies after they admitted their apparent laxity in going after foreigners illegally working in tourism establishments.
The SP probe was a continuation of the hearing conducted by Board Member (BM) Kristine Alexie Tutor, chairperson of the committee on tourism after Vice Governor Dionisio Balite, presiding officer of the SP requested to focus the investigation on the working status of foreigners in Panglao.
However, Joan Mondal of the BI – Bohol Field Office confirmed the growing number of foreign nationals working in Bohol without an Alien Employment Permit (AEP).
But the SP was dismayed when Mondal said that a complaint must first be filed before the BI can make its move against the foreigner.
Victorino Nemenzo of the DOLE – Bohol Field Office gave the same reply as the BI saying that despite their knowledge of the presence of illegal foreign workers they have to await orders from above to conduct an investigation.
Both officials of DOLE and BI were hamstrung by lack of personnel to enforce immigration and labor laws dealing with foreign workers.
BM Tomas Abapo, informed those present that under article 40 of the Labor Code of the Philippines states that any alien seeking admission to the Philippines for employment purposes shall obtain an alien employment permit AEP from the DOLE.
Abapo is the chairperson of the SP committee on Rules, Labor and Employment
Article 41 also bars an alien holding an AEP to transfer to another job or change his employer without prior approval from the DOLE.
An AEP is valid for one year but shall not exceed five years.
On the other hand, the BI, as the primary enforcing arm of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulates the entry, stay and departure of foreign nationals in the country.
The BI also issues special permits such as special working permits, provisional permits to work, cancellation of immigration documents, investigation, arrests and detention of foreigners for violation of immigration laws.
Working permits of two Spanish nationals, Julian Bonilla and Ivan Serreras were scrutinized after their alleged involvement in a diving accident as diving instructors that led to the death of US citizens Hans Adrian Campbell and injuries to Norman Zheng.
The two divers suffered injuries to the head and body after a speedboat strayed and hit them while undergoing a dive course in the shallow waters in Dulho, Panglao.
Resource persons were Darwin Menorias, Head of the Coastal Resources Management Office of LGU, Panglao, Norma Enriquez of the Maritime Industry Authority and representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard, Tagbilaran Station.
Present during the SP hearing were BM’s Abapo, Abeleon Damalerio, Jade Bautista, Dionisio Victor Balite, Romulo Cepedoza and Elpidio Jala. (Chito M. Visarra and Rey Tutas)