NEWLY appointed United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim assured Filipinos that their visa applications will continue to be processed, amid concerns that Washington’s ban on nationals of seven Muslim nations may affect even the deployment of Philippine nationals.
“I would like to emphasize that despite many rumors out there, we continue to welcome Filipino visa applicants,” Kim said at the general membership meeting of the Makati Business Club.
Last Saturday US President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order (EO), titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”. It notes the crucial role of the visa-issuance process in detecting individuals with terrorist ties.
The EO effectively barred entry into the US of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen for 90 days. It also suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days with case-by-case exceptions and suspended entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Kim, in a speech before the giants of the Philippine business community, however, could not definitively say if the vetting process for other countries, including the Philippines, may also be tightened in the future.
“Regarding the EO, there has been confusion and a lot of concerns on the exact parameters of the EO. Unfortunately, it will take some time for the details to be refined and my hope is over the next coming days there will be clarity on the exact parameters of the EO,” Kim said.
This ambiguity is due to the fact that, while Trump’s EO only initially bans the seven Muslim countries detailed in the US’s Immigration Nationality Act (INA) Section 217 (a)(12), another section of the EO states that the US Homeland Security, the secretary of State and the director of National Intelligence will conduct a review of “any country” to see if additional information is needed from these countries so the US agencies can adjudicate if they can avail themselves of benefits under the Immigration
The review of the countries and the information they will provide to avail themselves of the INA will be done in 30 days. A list of countries that will provide “inadequate” information will also be submitted to the US president in the same period.
Upon receipt of the report on the information needed for adjudications, the secretary of State will request foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing them within 60 days upon notification.
After the additional 60 days, more countries could be recommended
by the three agencies to be included in the presidential proclamation to also block their citizens from entering the US. After this, entry from the identified banned nations will be done on a case-by-case basis.
Still, the US envoy said economic ties between the Philippines and the US remain strong. American engagement in the pillars of the Philippine economy, namely, the business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry, overseas Filipino workers and the semiconductor industry is deeply embedded.
Convergys, the single-largest employer in the Philippine BPO sector, is an American firm. About 70 percent of the outsourced works of Filipino BPO workers are for American clients.
The semiconductor industry, on the other hand, takes up more than half of Philippine goods exports, and several American firms can be credited for this, including Texas Instruments, the largest semiconductor exporter in the country.
OFWs send more than $25 billion a year to the Philippines, and US-based Filipinos account for a third of those remittances.
This was echoed by newly elected MBC Chairman Edgar O. Chua, who noted that the US is the Philippines’s third-largest trading partner and third-largest source of tourists.