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Monday, April 21, 2014

‘No notice yet on removal of Saipan from restricted list’

The Philippine Consulate General in Guam says it has not received any official confirmation that the CNMI has been removed from the list of countries with restricted labor markets.

Consul General Bayani Mangibin said Wednesday that it will not make an announcement to the Filipino community in the CNMI until their office receives a memorandum from concerned Philippine agencies about the lifting of the restriction.

An email from Philippine Overseas Employment Agency administrator Hans Cacdac to a Filipino worker on Saipan was circulated on Tuesday, saying a memorandum circular removing the Northern Marianas from the list will take effect this week based on an advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Considered “restricted markets” are countries declared by the Philippine government as dangerous due to hostile and hazardous working conditions, with some countries given varied restrictions.

The Commonwealth’s inclusion on the list since 2005 has resulted in “tighter” procedures in applying for the overseas employment certificate or OEC, a document that ensures Filipino workers who are returning to their employment site abroad are properly documented, eligible to receive government protection and benefits, and exempted from travel tax and airport terminal fee.

Mangibin, however, said they have not received nor seen any new announcement or memorandum in the DFA and POEA website about the Commonwealth’s removal from the list.

“In the government, we are protocol oriented so we want to see it in black and white first before we can make accurate announcements so as to avoid misinterpretation or dissemination of inaccurate information. The way I look at it, the situation is very fluid,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Mangibin also clarified that identifying countries to be included on the list is an “inter-agency decision” involving DFA, POEA, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Since taking over the CNMI jurisdiction after the closure of the Saipan Consulate General, the Guam consulate has been communicating with DFA in Manila about the many complaints they are receiving from overseas Filipino workers on the OEC processing, said Mangibin.

He advised Filipino workers in the Northern Marianas to obtain first their CW visa from the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Upon issuance of the visa, these workers should then follow the POEA’s online appointment system to avoid long lines when processing their OEC.

The appointment service, which is free, is available at bmappointment.poea.gov.ph. Besides its main office in Mandaluyong, POEA also has counters at Duty Free Philippines in Paranaque City, SM Manila, and Trinoma in Quezon City.

Required documents for restricted labor markets include a letter addressed to POEA administrator Cacdac; a passport valid for six months from the time of departure; valid work visa/permit, employment contract or other proof of employment such as certificate of employment, company ID, pay slip or other equivalent document; proof of arrival/exit from the jobsite stamped on passport; and copy of e-ticket.

Guam Consul Cortes

In other news, the Guam Consulate announced Wednesday that Vice Consul Maria Paz G. Cortes is now designated as consul after being promoted to the rank of Foreign Service Officer, Class II on March 5.

Cortes took her Foreign Service Exam in 2003 then joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila in January 2005. She was later assigned to serve in the Guam Consulate where she has been working for over five years.

She said in a phone interview yesterday that a consular officer is qualified to a promotion after three years of service under the same rank, upon the deliberation of the Board of Foreign Service Administration.

“I am thankful and honored to be given the opportunity to continue serving our kababayans. Also, I see the growth in service with this promotion, which means having bigger responsibilities. I am ready to take on that challenge,” Cortes said when asked for comment.

Mangibin welcomed Cortes’ promotion, describing her as an asset to their office, not only on consular matters but also on legal issues. Cortes is also a lawyer.

“It’s a well-deserved promotion. Our new consul is very intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated to her work,” he said.

Cortes, who will be in charge of the consular team that will hold the consulate’s first mobile outreach on Saipan next week, said she is looking forward to meeting the Filipino community on island.

“This will be the first time that the members of the team will visit Saipan. We’re excited,” she added.

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