After President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that Chinese workers in the country could not simply be deported, Malacanang clarified that he was referring to Chinese workers who have valid working permits.
"We wish to clarify that the President's policy on Chinese workers who are illegally staying in the country remains the same, which is the enforcement of immigration laws against violators," Palace spokesman Salvador panel said in a statement Monday.
"Our laws will be applied with full force and effect equally to all foreign nationals who violate them," he added.
Panelo said Chinese workers who have working permits and compliant with immigration rules and do not violate the laws of the land "will be accorded the protection they are entitled to."
Concerns have been raised on the presence of Chinese workers in the country, who might be taking over the jobs of Filipinos after the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in September last year said that, in the last two years, it had issued around 25,000 of over 40,000 Alien Employment permits to Chinese workers.
Panelo stressed the government would be careful in enforcing the law on the Chinese, saying the thousands of Filipinos in China should be a prime consideration.
"Enforcement of the immigration laws however doesn't mean that we shall act recklessly on perceived violations of Chinese citizens," he said.
"To do so would be a dangerous policy as we have, as the President stressed in his campaign rally speech, thousands of Filipinos in China and its government might enforce a policy of tit for tat to the detriment of our countrymen in China," he added.
Panelo said the government will "tread cautiously and in accordance with the Constitution" in dealing with any matter involving Chinese migrants perceived or alleged to be staying illegally, "given the situation of thousands of Filipinos staying in China not in accordance with its laws."
"The plight of our overseas Filipino workers remains foremost in the President's mind," he said. —Virgil Lopez/ LDF, GMA News