Jakarta – Indonesia has granted entry to 450 Chinese workers employed by PT Bintan Alumina Indonesia (PT BAI), an aluminum producer based in the Galang Batang special economic zone in Bintan regency, Riau Islands.
"On Saturday, 145 more Chinese workers were employed by our company, bringing the total number of Chinese workers in the company to approximately 450 people. Just like other foreign employees, they also abide by the health protocols," the president director of PT BAI, Santoni, said on Monday as reported by kompas.com
He said the workers were employed to help build a coal-fired steam power plant and bauxite smelters in Bintan using their expertise. The project itself is expected to be finished by November this year, with operations slated to begin by January 2021.
"Without those Chinese workers, the construction process will be hampered," Santoni said.
Previously, the arrival of hundreds of Chinese workers in the country despite travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic drew backlash, with much of the public concerned about local employment opportunities possibly being taken by foreign nationals, in addition to concerns over possible virus transmission.
However, Santoni said the company mostly comprised locals with more than 3,000 Indonesian workers. "The majority of our employees are Bintan residents," he said.
Bintan Manpower Agency head Indra Hidayat also defended the arrival of the Chinese workers, saying that they were construction experts needed for the company.
"They are contracted for six months to finish the project by PT BAI. They will be sent home right away after the project is finished," Indra said.
He explained that the Chinese workers had obtained temporary stay permits (KITAS) and work permits (IMTA) and tested negative in COVID-19 swab tests.
After arriving in Bintan regency through Raja Haji Fisabilillah International Airport in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands, the Chinese workers underwent 14-day quarantine under strict monitoring from the COVID-19 task force, he added.
Previously, residents of South Konawe regency in Southeast Sulawesi staged protests in June over the employment of 500 Chinese workers in nickel smelter projects in the region amid a trend of mass layoffs due the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah defended the employment of foreign workers, saying it was only allowed for national strategic projects requiring technologies that local workers had yet to master. (trn)