GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 03 May) – Authorities held at least 48 Chinese nationals at a compound where Chinese firm Panhua Group is allegedly building a steel plant in neighboring Maasim, Sarangani province, it was learned Monday.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents, accompanied by soldiers, swooped down Friday, April 30, the compound in Barangay Kamanga, which is near a coal-fired power plant of the Alcantara-owned Sarangani Energy Corporation.
In a report to the Sarangani Provincial Police Office, Major Herman Luna, Maasim police chief, cited an order by Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente directing agents to check on the work permits of a certain Guiyang Siao and 47 other Chinese nationals there.
Luna said the immigration agents were there to investigate reports that the Chinese nationals allegedly used “false claims” in their sworn documents, which were submitted to support their application for special work permits. Such is in violation of Section 45 (f) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 as amended.
The police report said that the immigration officers seized several documents, including biometrics and other items from the compound, which can support the investigation on whether the Chinese were indeed skilled or just plain common workers.
Asked about what awaits the Chinese nationals being held under guard at the Panhua Group compound, the head of the BI Sarangani office, Sittie Almaida Kapampangan, told the media that she has “no authority to divulge matters pertaining to the incident.”
Last month, Barangay Kamanga chair Rosadelima Mangelen said they learned about the presence of the Chinese who, according to her, will be working to build a steel plant.
The area where the plant is to be built is within the Kamanga Agro-Industrial Ecozone, which used to be owned by Mangelen’s family until it was sold.
A Filipino worker doing carpentry work at the compound, who requested anonymity, complained to the media about a plan to replace them with Chinese workers, about 1,500 of them to be arriving on separate dates “by end of April until May.”
Mangelen told MindaNews at her residence last month that they were asked by officials of the Panhua Group for a “certificate of no objection” in their bid to get a clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for their project.
In 2019, the Panhua Group has forged an agreement with the Philippine government to put up a P3.3 billion steel plant, but at the Phividec Industrial Park in Misamis Oriental, which is in Northern Mindanao.