Guam may secure preferential treatment from Philippine labor

Secretary of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas Francisco P. “Nick” Acosta, left, meets with former governor Carl Gutierrez to facilitate closer labor, economic and cultural ties between the Philippines and Guam.

Guam contractors who recruit labor from the Philippines may soon secure preferential treatment in terms of a waiver from Philippine labor agency rules.

According to an Adelup release, a Guam delegation traveled to the Philippines, met with Philippine cabinet officials, and made “significant headway” towards a temporary exemption from the food and accommodation rule requirement for Guam contractors who recruit Filipino workers.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) policies and employment standards require overseas contractors to provide “food and accommodation or the monetary equivalent which shall be commensurate to the cost of living in the host country, or off-setting benefits” for overseas Filipino workers. However, the POEA allows for exemptions if the host country can demonstrate the ability to provide other benefits that will, at a minimum, offset the costs of living.

While there is no formal stipulation or agreement in place between Guam and the Philippines, the POEA has consistently approved Guam contractor applications for H-2B labor.

But because there is no formal agreement, enforcement of the food and accommodation requirement was initiated by the Philippine Consulate Office on Guam in March 2019, raising concerns among Guam contractors who urged Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) Director David Dell’Isola to intervene.

Dell’Isola brought the issue to the attention of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero who dispatched former governor Carl Gutierrez, the administration’s chief advisor on economic development, national and international affairs, to lead a delegation to engage in high-level talks with the Philippine Government.

“With the military buildup ongoing and the H-2B labor shortage because of federal
government restrictions, we cannot afford another setback that would be detrimental to our economy and prosperity. This situation places a huge burden on local contractors by delaying construction on critical infrastructure projects. I want to thank Chief Advisor Gutierrez for his persistence, Director Dell’Isola for his leadership, and the Philippine Government for their support,” the governor stated.

According to Adelup, Gutierrez coordinated the meetings with Philippine government officials while GDOL Director Dell’Isola led the presentation to seek the waiver for Guam.

The discussions were held with Philippine Secretary of Labor Silvestre H. Bello III, POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia, POEA Licensing and Regulation Office Director IV Ria Corazon S. Land, and POEA Chief Legal Counsel Harvey A. Dumbab.

During the meeting, GDOL Director Dell’Isola and POEA Administrator Olalia both agreed to work together before the next POEA council meeting to develop a formal agreement that would give Guam a permanent country exemption to the food and accommodation requirement.

“Our Guam delegation has made it clear that we are pursuing this exemption industry-wide and our meetings with the Labor officials proved to be very promising with all of them agreeing that a waiver for Guam benefits all of us,” said GDOL Director Dell’Isola. “Chief Advisor Gutierrez was instrumental in this process and without his expertise, we would not have been able to garner the immediate attention of the Philippine government.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the initial response of the Philippine government to our outreach efforts in raising this issue,” said Acting Governor Tenorio. “This kind of collaboration strengthens the relationship we have with the Philippines and the Filipino people.”