On May 03, 2019, Usec. Astravel P. Naik of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas warmly welcomed multinational journalists from 11 countries who are participating in the East-West Center’s 2019 Jefferson Fellowships. The participants are namely:
1. Noriko Akiyama – Senior Political Writer, the Asahi Shimbum, Tokyo, Japan
2. Tony Bernhardt, Jr. – Content Director & Investigative Reporter, Graycom Media Group, San Diego, California, United States
3. Gill Bonnett – Senior Journalist, Radio New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
4. Annalisa Burgos – Freelancer, ABS-CBN News, Manila, Philippines
5. Pramod De Silva – Consultant Editor, Associated Newspapers of Ceyclon Ltd. (aka Lake House), Colombo, Sri Lanka
6. Ishani Duttagupta – Senior Assistant Editor, The Economic Times, New Delhi, India
7. Yik Fan EG – Editor, Hello Singapore, Mediacorp Singapore, Singapore
8. Tania Karas – Immigration Reporter & Editor, PRI’s The World, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
9. Jae Young Kim – Deputy Editor, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, Seoul, Korea
10. Thomas Maresca – Immigration Reporter & Editor, USA Today, Seoul, Korea/United States
11. Xing Wei – Deputy Editor, Pear Video, Shanghai, China
12. Nicholas Kuo Liang Yong – Assistant News Editor, Yahoo News Singapore, Singapore
13. Liz A. Dorn – Seminars Program Coordinator, Professional Development, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
The fellowship aims to explore the theme of “Migration Policy and Public Sentiment” in the United States, South Korea, Philippines, and Australia. After a round of introductions from both ends, Usec. Naik proceeded with discussing demographic profiles of overseas Filipinos and provided a holistic overview of the CFO’s programs and services on behalf of Justice Francisco P. Acosta (Ret.).
Usec. Naik informed the group that the Philippine migration has gone beyond labor migration. Subsequently, Usec. Naik pointed out the distinction between overseas Filipinos and temporary migrants to underscore the more nuanced nature of the Philippines’ international migration. As a government institution, the CFO aims to serve emigrants during the entire migration cycle, for them to become productive individuals in their host countries while still being actively involved in development initiatives back home. This is in connection with various projects presented by Usec. Naik, such as the BaLinkBayan, LINKAPIL, Peso Sense, YouLeaD, and anti-human trafficking initiatives, among others.
After the brief presentation of Usec. Naik, an open forum was conducted with questions revolving around labor and migration issues of their respective home countries.
Ms. Gill Bonnett informed the attendees of Filipino migrant workers and students being exploited in New Zealand and inquired about what the Philippine government is doing to address the issue. Usec. Naik said that aside from conducting Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) for emigrants, we likewise conduct the Community Education Program (CEP) to raise awareness about human trafficking and illegal recruitment amongst local government units, students, and the general public. She also emphasized that the CFO works closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Posts on matters of importance such as the welfare of Filipino migrants.
Ms. Tania Karas raised the issue of the US government’s one-year ban on Filipinos from being granted temporary working visas (H-2A and H-2B). Dir. Miravalles clarified that the ban’s impact on migration of Filipinos is minimal, as only a few apply for the said visa class. Moreover, the US placed a ban on H2B and H2A workers over human trafficking concerns from the Philippines. It was noted that the US embassy in Manila issues the most number of T-derivative visas. Approximately 60 percent of those who were granted T-1 status, whose spouses were also issued T-2 visas in the same period, have been identified to have been victims trafficking to the US through H2-B visa.
Dir. Miravalles also mentioned that the restrictions in the US H2-B visa may only have a slight impact on the remittances coming from the US to the Philippines since the massive construction bill for the new facilities, headquarters, hospitals, runways barracks, and housing facilities for the 30,000 US military troops and their families from Okinawa to Guam will be needing the services of construction workers. The Defense Act exempts the construction workers from the ban. Hence on April 4, 2019, Guam has agreed to let in more than 350 workers from the Philippines, easing concerns of a labor shortage after a US-imposed ban.
Dir. Miravalles agrees with Usec. Naik that the government does not actively promote the deployment of workers abroad but manages the migration of those interested to leave the country.
Usec. Naik emphasized that there is a demand for Filipino expertise around the globe. She also mentioned that the Philippines has good bilateral relations with Japan, China, Canada, and South Korea in terms of the ease of mobility and welfare of migrants.
Dir. Miravalles informed the attendees of an MOU signed between the CFO and South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) in 2011. It is an agreement promotes information sharing, joint research, and capacity building for the resettlement and adaptation of Filipino marriage migrants and the empowerment of immigrant women. This MOU is hoped to be replicated in agreements with other countries major destination countries of marriage migrants, such as Japan.
Ms. Anna Lisa Burgos asked about what the Commission does to respond to the brain drain phenomenon that comes with outmigration of experts. Usec. Naik explained that brain drain can effectively be turned into brain gain for destination countries by hosting Filipino professionals in the fields of medicine, engineering, education, etc. Moreover, the knowledge and skills they acquire abroad can be shared with fellow Filipinos upon their return to the home country.
Other issues brought up were OF’s political participation, benefits for returning migrants, Chinese migrant workers, and the business process outsourcing industry in the country, among others.