In this Jan. 15, 2019 photo, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press briefing at Malacañang.
The STAR/Joven Cagande
Palace: We have to respect if US has basis for banning Filipino workers
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - January 22, 2019 - 2:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government would have to respect the decision of the United States if it has basis for removing Filipino workers from its eligibility list, Malacañang said Tuesday.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has banned issuing temporary work visas for new Filipino workers seeking jobs in the country until Jan. 18, 2020.

Filipino workers will no longer be granted H-2A and H-2B visas due to high overstay rates. 

"If that is the law in the US and if there were violations then we have to respect if they have basis for that. We will only react if our workers are being mistreated, maltreated or being discriminated against but if they violated laws of the US then they have to face the music," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a televised press briefing.

The DHS, as well as the US Department of State, raised concerns about the high volume of trafficking victims from the Philippines who were originally issued H-2B visas.

The continued issuance of H-2B visas might encourage human trafficking from the Philippines, the DHS said.

Data from the US Embassy in Manila showed that 60 percent of T-1 nonimmigrants or certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking were identified to have been trafficked to the US through H-2B visas.

The US government, however, did not provide figures on the supposed rising number of human trafficking victims from the Philippines. According to Panelo, the Philippine government has not yet received such report from the US Embassy in Manila.

Panelo only noted that the US government must have conducted its own investigation into the human trafficking issue.

"If their investigation yields that there was a violation, I don't think we can interfere with that. What we can do is to do our own control here so that trafficking victims from here would not be able to go there," Panelo said.

The Malacañang spokesman further added that it would be the Department of Foreign Affairs and US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim who would handle the matter.

The US Embassy in Manila has yet to issue any comment on the directive of the DHS to temporarily ban Filipinos from the H-2A and H-2B visa programs.

The DFA, on the other hand, reminded Filipinos abroad to follow immigration rules and avoid overstaying as allowed by their visas.

"Nonetheless, the Philippines is open to the possibility of working with the United States in addressing these issues, as it has previously done so with similar concerns involving the Filipino Community there," DFA spokesperson Elmer Cato said.

Asked how the Philippine government would console Filipinos planning to work in the US, Panelo said there are other countries where they can seek job opportunities.

"Until they lift that, what we can do is first we need to know whether there is basis for the decision. If we can see that there is none then we will ask for reconsideration but that's the job of the DFA and the US ambassador," Panelo said.

"As soon as we receive the report then we will make a move officially," he added.

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