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DOLE: 7,000+ POGO workers face deportation for lack of AEP

Over 7,000 foreign nationals (FN) may soon face possible deportation for their failure to secure work permits, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In an interview, DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique R. Tutay said they were able to identify a total of 7,037 FNs working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) who allegedly did not apply for an Alien Employment Permit (AEP) before the prescribed deadline.

An AEP is a document issued by DOLE to FNs who will be working in the country for more than six months.

“They were given until mid- June to comply…the names of those who did not comply will be submitted to the BI [Bureau of Immigration],” Tutay told reporters in an ambush interview.

This was in line with the Joint Guidelines (JG) 1, Series of 2019, jointly signed by DOLE, Department of Justice (DOJ), BI and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which was signed last May.

Under the said issuance, FNs working in POGOs were no longer allowed to avail themselves of a Special Work Permit (SWP). Instead, they will be required to apply for an AEP.

SWP is issued by the BI to FNs who will work in the country for less than six months.

Higher compliance

Tutay said the number of FNs they will be endorsing to BI may still rise since their current figures only covered their validation inspection in Metro Manila alone.

“Our joint inspection team has already saturated the POGOs in NCR [National Capital Region], so we are now focusing our attention to other locators outside of Metro Manila,” Tutay said.

Citing the validation result, she said there was a total of 38,343 FNs in 171 POGO service providers in the NCR that were inspected.

Initially, 8,371 FNs were found to have no work permits, which was, however, reduced to 7,037 after some of them applied for an AEP.

Tutay said while JG 1 is yet to be fully implemented, she said it has already triggered a rise on the number of AEP applications in their regional office to 9,357 in the first quarter of 2018 to 15,904 on the same period this year.

“This is equivalent to a 70-percent increase year-on-year,” Tutay said.

Additional requirements

TO recall, the government adopted a more aggressive inspection regime on the growing number of FN employees in the country,  amid concerns from some lawmakers that many of them do not have the necessary work permits.

This also resulted to the government’s issuance of JG 1, and the new Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 001, Series of 2019, signed by DOLE, DOJ, BI, BIR, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), which was signed on Thursday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said JMC 001 will further ensure that no Filipino will be deprived of work due to the entry of FNs.

“This will also lead to a higher revenue collection for the BIR because no [work] permit will be issued [to FNs] if they will not pay taxes.” Bello said.

Among the salient points of the JMC is enabling FNs to secure a work visa even while they are in their home country; and making Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) a requirement for the application of a work permit.

Centralized database

IT also mandates all concerned agencies, except DOJ and BI, to secure a Certificate of No Objection (CNO) from DOLE in the issuance of their respective work permits for FNs.

“This is so we can capture the data of foreign nationals, who intend to work in the Philippines,” Tutay said.

Another landmark provision of JMC 001 is its provision requiring all work permit applications of FNs to be vetted by Nica to ensure they will not pose as a threat to the country’s national security.

All of these collected data will be consolidated by BLE in a soon-to-be established centralized database.

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