By Ferdinand Patinio

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma (Screengrab)

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday vowed to tighten its screening of foreigners applying for alien employment permits (AEPs) for them to be able to work in the country.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma made the remark in the wake of the raids against illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), which were found to be employing foreign workers who either do not have proper documents or have used fraudulent documents. 

“Bukod sa pagsusuri ng mga dokumento and pag-submit ng mga requirement, meron din pong isinagawang inspection ang ating mga frontliner sa ibat-ibang regional offices lalo na dito sa National Capital Region kasi dito may concentration ang naga-apply ng AEP (Aside from the scrutinizing documents and the submission of the requirements, our frontliners in regional offices are also conducting inspections especially here in the National Capital Region because the concentration of those applying for an AEP is here),” Laguesma said in a radio interview.

The DOLE chief said they also have a data-sharing agreement with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to ensure that illegal workers will not be able to enter the country. 

Among the documents required for AEP applicants include a photocopy of the passport’s bio page, employment contract and appropriate visas — 9(a) visa for new applicants and 9(g) visa for those seeking renewal of AEPs. 

“Sinisigurado din namin na walang qualified Filipino workers na mapapalitan o madidisplace dahil sa application at pagbibigay ng AEP sa foreigners (We also ensure that no qualified Filipino workers would be replaced or displaced by the application and grant of AEPs to foreigners),” Laguesma said.

The DOLE chief said they are also coordinating with other agencies involved in the hiring of foreign nationals for them to come with the necessary adjustments in policies on AEP issuance. 

Aside from the DOLE, other members of the Inter-agency Task Force on the Employment of Foreign Nationals are the BI, Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Professional Regulation Commission.

Meanwhile, Laguesma said they are working with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) regarding inspections of POGOs, which are now known as internet gaming licensees (IGLs).

He said one of PAGCOR’s salient policies is the prohibition on work-from-home schemes for IGL employees.

“Kasi dito nakikita ung illegal activities, ito ung gusto naming iwasan, nang sa gayon pag may inspection, makikita natin sa place of work nila ‘yung mga binigyan ng AEP ng (Because here, we can see the illegal activities. This is what we would want to prevent. So that during inspections, we would see in the place of work those who were given an AEP by the) DOLE,” he added. (PNA)