Hagåtña, Guam – At successful meetings between a Guam delegation and Philippine cabinet officials, significant headway was made to provide a temporary exemption from the food and accommodation requirement for Guam contractors who recruit Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).
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 OFWs. However, the POEA allows for exemptions if the host country can demonstrate the ability to provide other benefits that will, at a minimum, offset 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.
Without a formal agreement, in March 2019, enforcement of the food and accommodation requirement was initiated by the Philippine Consulate Office on Guam, raising concerns among contractors who urged Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) Director David Dell’Isola to intervene. He then brought the issue to the attention of Governor Lou Leon Guerrero who immediately dispatched her Chief Advisor on Economic Development, National and International Affairs Carl Gutierrez 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,” Governor Leon Guerrero stated.
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 Philippines’ 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.”