IN the past few days, Malacanang and Labor department officials were reporting that the current administration’s efforts to provide jobs to Filipinos are paying off.
These officials belabor that “unemployment rate is down, there are more jobs being offered and overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] have agreed to return home since there are plenty of jobs to go around [here].”
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. (in a newspaper report on June 10, 2015) noted a “NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) report that the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April 2014 from 7.6 percent in April 2013.”
Coloma said the country’s underemployment decreased to 18.2 percent from 19.2 percent.
“This growth has brought about a total of 1.7 million additional employed persons. According to [NEDA] Secretary [Arsenio] Balisacan, the improvement in employment is broad-based, covering agriculture, industry and services sectors,” he added.
“We share [Balisacan’s] optimism that these positive indicators bode well for a higher GDP [gross domestic product]growth rate in the succeeding quarters,” Coloma said.
If the trend continues–assuming jobs are created and poverty and corruption are eradicated–then Filipinos will no longer have to risk life and limb for overseas employment. With no Filipinos leaving to work abroad, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) should close its doors and, if it does, save more of the people’s money.
After all, why go overseas if the same jobs and good pay are available at home–as the POEA, Labor department and Malacanang claim?
But first, a report from the US State Department should be of concern to Filipino professionals and workers.
Filipino professionals and skilled and other workers with immigrant visa petitions must wait…and wait…and wait some more.
It was bad enough that the EB3 category (Employment-based 3rd Preference for Professionals, Skilled and Other Workers) was moved back seven years in May this year, and then retrogressed another two years last month.
Then in the July 2015 Visa Bulletin just released by the State Department, the EB3 category is UNAVAILABLE! How long this will last is anybody’s guess. The best scenario is that by October this year, visas will be available again, although they are not expected to be moved back to where they were before the numbers became unavailable.
October is the start of the US fiscal year and a new set of per-country visa numbers are allocated.
As we mentioned several columns back, the visa allocation system of the United States (for Family and Employment-based categories) is used up fully or not by each country with specific quotas (averaging 25,620 a year) depending on the conditions outside the US.
If there are more visa applicants than there are visa allocations for each preference category (in the Family and Employment-based) then the cut-off or availability dates either stagnate, retrogress or as shown in the July 2015 Visa Bulletin, become unavailable.
With wars and battles raging in the economic, political and health/medical spheres in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia, those with pending immigrant visa petitions use their assigned numbers, leaving nothing to spread around.
The July 2015 Visa Bulletin for the Philippines is shown below:
F1 – over 21 unmarried sons/daughters of US Citizens – 15-Mar-00
F2A – spouses and minor children of green card holders – 8-Nov-13
F2B – Over 21 sons/daughters of green card holders – 15-May-04
F3 – Married sons/daughters of US Citizens – 22-Aug-93
F4 – Sisters/brothers of US citizens – 08-Dec-1991
Immigrant visas for workers backlogged, backpedalled
In January this year, the cut-off date for the 3rd Employment-based category for the Philippines was June 1, 2013.
This means that professionals, skilled and other workers with labor certifications filed on or before June 1, 2013 (and subsequently filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services) should look forward to their immigrant visa interviews at the US Embassy in Manila–if they had completed documentation with the National Visa Center and paid the corresponding fees of $325 for each applicant (principal applicant and qualified family members).
The cut-off dates moved even faster in the following months. By April this year, the EB3 priority date was October 1, 2014. Then lightning struck.
The next month (May 2015), the cut-off date was moved back almost seven years to July 1, 2007. Last month, the visa date was moved back another two years to January 1, 2005.
For July and the unforeseeable future, the EB3 category was listed as unavailable.
For workers with approved EB3 immigrant visa petitions who are scheduled for interviews or those who were not able to appear on their interview date, as well as visa applicants who were not able to complete their documentation and pay the fees at the National Visa Center level, it will be a long wait.
Back to the provinces
In a June 10, 2015 issue of another paper (not The Manila Times), it was reported that unemployment was up in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila). Overall, the unemployment rate was officially reported as down.
Coloma and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the “…government’s intensive job generation efforts have brought forth more productive opportunities, thereby reducing joblessness. Skills training and job matching programs are also paying off.”
“All combined, we can expect sustained low joblessness. Our economic growth is really accompanied by jobs,” Baldoz was quoted to have stated by phone.
Based on these official pronouncements, we should look forward to fewer Filipinos leaving for jobs overseas as well as more Filipinos coming back home (since there are jobs aplenty), instead of risking their lives in countries where they are working but troubled by armed conflicts.
Theoretically, with no more Filipinos to be deployed abroad (since jobs are being created as claimed) then the POEA should cease to exist.