By Gillian M. Cortez, March 7 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Philippine Star

FOREIGNERS looking to work in the Philippines will now be required to obtain work visas in their countries of origin, with the visa to be a prerequisite for applying for a work permit, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a briefing that he will enforce the new order for foreign workers to present a working visa as a requirement for the subsequent issuance of a Special Working Permit (SWP) or an Alien Employment Permit (AEP).

The procedure was agreed to by DoLE and the Department of Finance (DoF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Justice (DoJ), Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) during their interagency committee meeting held earlier this month.

“We agreed that before an alien can come in, they should get a working visa from their place of origin… Anyone can come here as a tourist and apply for a special working permit. That can no longer be allowed. When you come here, you must come here to work,” he said.

The joint memorandum order will be issued soon by the labor department, DTI, DoF, DoJ, BI, and PAGCOR. The interagency committee will convene again on March 15.

The DoLE has the sole authority to issue AEPs. On the other hand, DoLE delegated to the BI the power to issue SWPs through BI Memorandum Order-AFFJr. 05-009 in 2005.

In Memorandum Order AFFJr. 05-009, foreign workers could only apply for a working visa with the BI after they are issued an AEP.

Mr. Bello said that once the joint memorandum order comes into force, foreigners will have to obtain their working visas in Philippine consular offices in their country of origin.

Government agencies will also conduct an initial screening to ensure that foreigners have skills not widely available in the Philippines.

“The work that is done here should be what a Filipino cannot do so there we can control the entry of foreign workers,” Mr. Bello said.

The joint memorandum will list jobs considered priorities for AEP/SWP applicants.

Last week, the Senate resumed its investigation into the influx of Chinese workers. According to DoLE data, nearly 169,000 AEPs were issued from 2015 to 2018, with 85,496 given to Chinese workers.

During its first leg of the Senate inquiry last year, Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III said many Chinese workers usually enter the Philippines using a tourist visa, making it harder for DoLE to track illegal workers. The DoLE also does not have the power to deport foreign workers without AEPs or SWPs. — Gillian M. Cortez