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Foreigners can get work permits only in 15 job categories.

To put an end to the 'abuse' of some foreigners of the special work permits (SWPs) given to them, four government agencies laid down on Labor Day a more stringent policy that limited the grant of authorization to 15 job categories.

Under the joint guidelines signed by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday, foreigners whose jobs are not on the 'positive list' need to secure an alien employment permit (AEP) from the Dole to work in the Philippines.

Six months only

'We can now prevent the abuse of the SWP because for the first time we now have job categories to which this could only be issued. It's a one-time issuance so a foreigner could no longer apply for an SWP, go back to his country after six months and return [to the Philippines] a month later so he could again apply for an SWP. That will no longer be allowed,' said Dominique Tutay, head of the Dole's Bureau of Local Employment.

An SWP allows foreigners who are in the Philippines on tourist visas to work here for six months.

Having SWPs does not allow them to work for employers here.

On the list of foreigners who can be issued the permits by the immigration bureau are athletes, coaches, trainers and assistants; international performers 'with exceptional abilities'; artists, performers and their staff who perform for a fee; and service suppliers who will 'perform temporary services and who do not receive salary or remuneration from a Philippine source other than expenses incidental to their temporary stay.'

Also on the list are treasure hunters authorized by the government to look for hidden treasures; movie and TV crew; journalists; trainees assigned to government agencies and private entities; lecturers, researchers and others pursuing academic work; missionaries; commercial models; chefs; consultants; and professionals.

They don't pay taxes

The multiagency policy, which will take effect within the month, was laid down amid increasing complaints that foreigners, particularly Chinese nationals, were taking away jobs that could have otherwise gone to Filipinos, especially at a time when the country's unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent.

Apart from wresting Philippine jobs from Filipinos, there are also reports that these foreigners aren't paying taxes to the government.

That is why under the new guidelines, foreigners applying for SWP, AEP and provisional work permit (PWP) are required to have tax identification numbers issued by the BIR.

Officials earlier said the booming online gaming industry was where most foreigners in the country were employed.

Records show that majority of the 138,000 foreigners employed by Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo), or 83,760, were issued SWPs by the immigration bureau.

The rest were AEP holders.

The large number of foreign Pogo workers is attributed to problems with language proficiency.

Currently, Tutay said, only 17 percent of all Pogo workers are Filipinos.

Bigger Filipino share

To deal with this problem, she said, the Dole and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. are looking into measures that will allow them to make the proportion of Filipinos bigger than that of foreigners.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said there had been no problems with foreign workers in the past because few foreigners worked in the country.

He said the old regulations did not impose restrictions, apart from the duration of the permits.

'The old system was prone to abuse, hence we saw the need to tighten our regulations to ensure that jobs that can be done by Filipinos will not be given to foreigners,' Morente said.

He gave assurance that the new guidelines would not impair the ease of doing business in the Philippines for foreign investors.

'We have made it easier for foreign nationals to comply with our laws,' Morente said.

'The procedures are simple, the process is now quicker, so there's really no excuse for foreign nationals to not follow,' he said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:May 2, 2019
Words:756
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