Manila seeks visa waivers, H-2B access to Guam

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.

Retired Philippine Court of Appeals Associate Justice Francisco P. “Nick” Acosta, a high ranking government official from the Philippines, visited the island last week to further enhance ties between Guam and the Philippines.

Acosta is now a cabinet member of the Duterte administration in the Philippines, serving as Secretary of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

While on Guam, Acosta met with local government officials led by former governor Carl Gutierrez, who is now Gov. Lou Leon Guerreros special economic and foreign affairs adviser, to discuss US visa waivers for an increasingly affluent Philippine citizenry wishing to visit Guam.

Acosta also met with high-powered executives from the private sector, specifically the construction industry to discuss employment visas for qualified workers seeking construction jobs on Guam.

Among the private sector officials Acosta met with were Black Construction Corporation’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Leonard K. Kaee and Vice President of Accounting & Finance Mark J. Mamczarz, both representing Guam contractors affected by the problematic H-2B process.

The federal government has approved up to 4,000 H-2B workers per year for construction projects within Guam’s military bases However, it has been estimated that by 2022 or 2023, Guam will need as many as 6,000 to 7,000 skilled workers to meet the labor needs of the island’s military buildup.

Acosta thanked Gutierrez and the governor for helping facilitate closer economic and cultural ties between the Philippines and Guam.

He specifically commended Gutierrez’s multiple missions to the Philippines and regular correspondence with the Duterte government since March of this year.

During an informal reception at Malacanang Palace in April, Gutierrez enlisted the endorsement of Salvador C. Medialdea— President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Secretary—for the formation of a Philippines-Guam Visa Task Force.

“In fact, during my visit, I asked Executive Secretary Medialdea to appoint a high-level attache to represent the Philippines in pursuit of a joint effort to persuade the US government to grant visa waivers to Philippine citizens wishing to visit US Guam while loosening onerous restrictions on Filipino skilled workers seeking employment here on island,” Gutierrez said.

Agreeing with Gutierrez, Acosta said now is the time to reactivate economic and cultural exchanges between the Philippines and Guam.

“Through the efforts of former governor Carl Gutierrez, acting for and on behalf of…incumbent governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero, we were able to have an initial conference with our executive secretary,” Acosta said.