Returning OFWs priority as gov’t studies reentry of foreign workers

Lian Buan

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Returning OFWs priority as gov’t studies reentry of foreign workers

The IATF may have a decision next week if they will allow the reentry of foreign workers who hold permanent and long-term visas

MANILA, Philippines – One of the government’s main considerations in the possible reentry of foreign workers into the Philippines is that they do not crowd out returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“Certainly (OFWs are priority). We have to deal with the repatriation of thousands of OFWs and we do not want them to be crowded out by foreign nationals who will likewise have to be tested and quarantined upon arrival,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters Wednesday, June 24.

Guevarra is a senior member of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

Guevarra said a foreign government requested that its nationals who hold permanent and long-term visas be allowed to re-enter the Philippines.

“As any action on this request may affect nationals of other countries, the IATF referred the matter to a technical working group to determine how many such foreign nationals are involved and to make a recommendation to the IATF,” said Guevarra.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also brought up the possibility of allowing the reentry as some of them are involved in the government’s flagship projects.

“It was not Secretary Mark Villar who raised it. But it was someone from the DPWH. It came across to me as an expression of the need for these foreign consultants and other technical workers due to their expertise,” said Guevarra.

Guevarra said the IATF may have a decision on this next week.

Expired contracts

Filipinos overseas are choosing to return home after canceled or expired contracts.

The Philippines has repatriated over 50,000 OFWs, many of whom experienced being stuck in quarantine hotels upon arrival due to the delays in testing and results of their tests.

The labor department estimates that by August, around 500,000 OFWs will be displaced.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has a one-time financial assistance program for returning OFWs. 

Travel ban

Guevarra said the IATF will be looking into the reentry of both foreign workers in government flagship projects, and foreign businessmen who hold commercial visas.

“One request is on foreign technical workers involved in our flagship projects. The other request is to allow holders of permanent resident visas and other long-term visas such as retirees’ and commercial visas to enter. So the latter covers foreign nationals who may have businesses here,” said Guevarra.

The government earlier suspended Philippine visas issued to foreigners. Only visas already issued to Filipinos’ foreign spouses and children as well as to accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents were valid.

Guevarra said they are only considering reactivating the permanent and long-term visas, and not visas-upon-arrival (VUAs).

“Not VUAs,” said Guevarra when asked.

It means foreigners will still not be able to enjoy visa-free privileges, as well as VUA privileges like the Chinese. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.