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Biden revives H-2B visa for working Pinoys
US President Joseph Biden revived a policy allowing foreigners to work in America. “This is definitely a positive signal from Washington. For two years under the previous US administration, the Philippines was removed from the eligibility list and Filipinos were unable to participate in the H-2B program,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said yesterday.
Boy Santos

Biden revives H-2B visa for working Pinoys

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos whose working visas have been withheld during the administration of Donald Trump can now heave a sigh of relief after newly inaugurated US President Joseph Biden revived a policy allowing foreigners to work in America.

“This is definitely a positive signal from Washington. For two years under the previous US administration, the Philippines was removed from the eligibility list and Filipinos were unable to participate in the H-2B program,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said yesterday.

The chairman of the House committee on strategic intelligence said relations between Manila and Washington are “off to a good start,” as the Philippines was put back on the list of countries eligible to participate in America’s H-2B visa program.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHC) recently announced its decision to return the Philippines to the list of countries whose citizens are qualified to receive H-2B visas for short-term non-farm jobs in America.

“The US should really be more welcoming to Filipinos, considering that we are an ally,” Pimentel, who supports the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement in support of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries, said.

“The immediate beneficiary of our return to the eligibility list are Filipinos looking for construction jobs in Guam,” Pimentel, a former governor, said.

“Right now, we understand that over 1,000 Filipinos have pending visa applications to work in Guam as HVAC technicians, heavy equipment operators, metal sheet workers, carpenters, painters and cement masons, among others,” he said.

The H-2B program allows US employers or US agents to bring foreign workers to America to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.

During the Trump administration, DHS used alleged overstaying and human trafficking concerns to ban the issuance of new H-2B and H-2A visas to Filipinos throughout 2019 and 2020.

The DHS recently announced that the Philippines has been put back on the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2B program for 2021. However, the Philippines is still not eligible to participate in the H-2A program for temporary agricultural jobs.

Fil-Am at reclamation bureau

A Filipino-American whose roots can be traced to Dagupan city in Pangasinan has been appointed by President Biden as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Camille Calimlim Touton, a water policy expert whose parents Carl and Marlene Bangsal Calimlim are from Barangay Tebeng in Dagupan, was appointed to the position, the Dagupan Public Information Office said.

Her grandparents are former Tebeng barangay captain Juanita Calimlim and Camilo Calimlim, it added.

In a statement, her former boss, US Rep. Grace Napolitano, said “Ms. Touton becomes the first Filipino-American to serve in this important agency leadership role” in the US.

Part of Napolitano’s statement on Touton’s appointment read: “I congratulate President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary-designate Deb Haaland on their excellent choice, their appointment of Camille Touton as the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. Ms. Touton has been one of my most trusted advisors on water policy for over a decade.”

As an engineer, Touton had counseled senators and members of Congress, and was a leader in the Obama administration’s Department of the Interior’s Office of Water and Science.

“Ms. Touton is a master of the complicated issues of Western water policy, who fully understands the grave threats posed by climate change and unpredictable drought cycles. She is well respected by the wide spectrum of water leaders, including Democrats and Republicans, federal, state and local water officials, and non-governmental groups,” Napolitano said.

The Bureau of Reclamation is a water management agency under the US Department of the Interior, which oversees dams, canals and hydroelectric plants across the Western United States. It is the nation’s largest wholesaler of water and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West.

Blinken, Kim

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario welcomed yesterday the appointment of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former US ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

“We welcome the appointment of Secretary of State Antony Blinken whom we had worked with when he was Deputy Secretary of State,” del Rosario said in a statement.

Before stepping down as secretary of foreign affairs under the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III, del Rosario said he and former Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. engaged Blinken, then deputy secretary in the Obama administration, to arrive at a decision to undertake joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

“We also welcome the appointment of Ambassador Sung Kim as acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs as it is often at that level where foreign policy is formulated and made to happen,” he said. – Eva Visperas, Pia Lee-Brago

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