PH respects US work visa ban; eyes appeal if baseless

Marje Pelayo   •   January 22, 2019   •   5307

(L-R) The American flag and the Philippine flag

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday (January 22) said it respects the decision of the United States government to impose a one-year ban for Filipino applicants of US work visas.

“(The President says) whatever your laws are, we will never intrude into that. The same way that whatever laws we have, we will enforce it. So if that is the law in the US and there were violations, then we have to respect. They have basis for that. we will only react if our workers are mistreated, maltreated or being discriminated against. But if they violated the laws of the US, then they have to face the music,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.

However, Panelo said, the Palace is yet to verify the basis of the US Department of Homeland Security for issuing such order.

“What we can do is first, we need to know whether there is basis for their decision. If we can see na wala naman (there’s none), then we will ask for a reconsideration,” he said adding that it is up for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the US Ambassador to the Philippines to discuss the matter.\

On its website federalregister.gov, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) removed the Philippines from its list of countries eligible for the H-2A and H-2B visas along with Ethiopia and Dominican Republic citing overstaying and human trafficking concerns.

Panelo said the Palace is yet to receive a report from the US Embassy as to the exact details of the ban.

The Presidential Spokesperson added that once the report reaches them, that’s the time that the government will make a move officially according to the situation.

In response to the issue, the DFA reminds Filipinos overseas, particularly those in the US, “to follow immigration rules and avoid staying beyond what is allowed in their visas.”

“As visa issuances are a country’s prerogative, the DFA notes the concerns that led the DHS to arrive at its decision. 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,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. along with the other Philippine Consulates General in the US, will continue to extend appropriate assistance to all its nationals pursuant to law,” the agency concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz / JL Asayo)

Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang believes there is nothing wrong with the location of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs near military camps following concerns about its possible risk to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Chinese-dominated POGO hubs’ will be better protected if these are near military installations.

“Military camps? Eh di lalong magaling kung military camps dahil binabantayan sila ng military for their protection,” he told reporters in an interview.

However, Panelo said he would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson to assess any security issue being posed by foreign operated online gaming operations.

“The Palace will always defer to the National Security Adviser on matters of security in the country,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said that providing protection to POGO hubs by the military is a “very valid suggestion,” but this is not part of their mandate.

However, he assured they are ready to help when their assistance is requested.

“That’s a very valid suggestion. But it is not the job of the military to watch or protect the POGO workers,” Lorenzana said.

“That is the job of the Bureau of Immigration, Police, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If our assistance is requested, we will assist,” he added.

Esperon has yet to issue any comment on the issue as of this posting.

Several lawmakers earlier raised a concern about Chinese-dominated POGO hubs near military camps and other vital installations, saying these pose risk to the country’s security.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier defended its decision to situate POGO hubs and its foreign workers in areas near military camps for their security and rights protection.

Pagcor chairperson and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo said hubs for online casinos and self-contained communities were mainly created to provide basic needs and ensure the safety of foreign workers employed in POGO hubs. She added that POGO workers are free to go wherever they want to.

Domingo’s statement came after the Embassy of China in the Philippines raised concern over the creation of self-contained communities as this might violate Chinese workers’ liberties.

“So, if their liberties are not restricted and according to them, ginagawa nga nila iyon to protect them, so, kung ganoon naman ang essence noong paglagay sa kanilang lugar, I don’t think that will be a violation,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Police presence not a solution to communist recruitment in schools— Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang expressed concern over reports of alleged student recruitment in universities and campuses across the country to join the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

However, the Palace is not keen on deploying policemen inside university and college campuses since student recruitment by rebels is done discreetly.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted that though Malacañang sees nothing wrong with joining progressive groups as an avenue to express one’s sentiments to the government, the case is different when a student joins an organization promoting ideologies that seek to destabilize the government.

Panelo added that it is still important for parents to remind their children to be wise in joining student organizations in schools.

“Kung papasok ka sa mga organisasyon…na ang intensyon ay pabagsakin ang gobyerno, wrong iyon (if [a student] joins an organization that intends to destabilize the government, that would be wrong),” Panelo said.

“Pero (But if) you join organizations to express legitimate grievances against (the government) gobyerno, certainly it’s not,” Panelo concluded.

Panelo noted, meanwhile, that a thorough study is highly necessary before the Palace considers the proposal to revive the anti-subversion law to end insurgency in the country. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Malacañang to Filipinos: Avoid travelling to Hong Kong for now

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

A demonstrator was injured during the protest against Hong Kong-China extradition Law on July 27, 2019. (Photoville International)

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has advised Filipinos to refrain from travelling to Hong Kong for now as the ongoing demonstrations have crippled operations in the international airport there.

“Ang travel ban siguro with respect kung gusto mo pumunta sa (The travel ban perhaps is with respect to your choice to travel to Hong Kong.) This is not the right time to go there kasi ang flight mo biglang naka-cancel, (as your flight might suddenly get cancelled,)” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said during a press briefing Tuesday (August 13).

Thousands of protesters swarmed Hong Kong International Airport’s main terminal on Monday (August 12) which led to cancellations of hundreds of outbound and inbound flights to and from the autonomous territory.

“Avoid muna going there, that’s the advice (because) you’re not sure you’re going to reach Hong Kong in the first place,” Panelo added.

When asked about a proposed ban on deployment of workers to Hong Kong, the Palace spokesperson said there is no need to declare such prohibition citing Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III since the protest movements as limited only to specific areas in Hong Kong.

“Nagkakagulo sa airport. Limited naman ang gulo sa airport, (The chaos is in the airport and it’s limited only within the airport,)” he said.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said in a statement that terminal operations at the airport “have been seriously disrupted, and all check-in processes have now been suspended.”

“Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport. All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible,” the statement said.

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