MANILA - Malacañang yesterday said that it may ask the United States government to reconsider the one-year ban it imposed on new Filipino migrant workers from Jan. 19, 2019 to Jan. 18, 2020.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that new workers from the Philippines carrying H2-A and H2-B visas are no longer allowed to seek employment.
The US-DHS cited a high rate of overstaying Filipinos and high volume of trafficking victims in the US under the H2-B status.
H2-A visas are temporary visas for foreign agricultural workers while H2-B visas are issued to foreign workers providing non-agricultural services in the US.
Panelo said that while the Palace respects the US government’s directive, it might consider appealing the US decision if it fails to prove that there is basis to impose the ban.
“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. And if they violated the laws of the US, then they have to face the music,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
He added the Department of Foreign Affairs will be in charge of working with the US in addressing the issues and filing an appeal.
“Until such time as they lift that…what we can do is first, we need to know whether there is basis for their decision,” Panelo said.
“If we can see na wala naman (that there’s none), then we will ask for a reconsideration -- but that’s the job again as I said of DFA and the US Ambassador (Sung Kim),” he added.
Panelo, however, did not necessarily agree with the DHS notice that cited a high volume of overstaying and trafficked Filipinos in the US unless it has concluded its investigation on the matter.
“Not necessarily. When you say human trafficking, the US government must have conducted investigation on that. If their investigation yields that there was a violation, oh I don’t think we can interfere,” Panelo said.
For the meantime, he said the Philippine government has to improve its anti-trafficking measures to prosecute traffickers and protect victims.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato, for his part, assured that the agency is addressing the concern and reminded Filipinos in the US to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond what is allowed in their visa.
“...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,” Cato said.*PNA
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