MANILA — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday issued three new policies for the protection of Filipino workers.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, together with other stakeholders, signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Law; DOLE-Department of Justice (DOJ)-Bureau of Immigration (BI) Guidelines on the Issuance of Work and Employment Permits to foreign nationals; and memorandum of agreement (MOA) and Certification for Returning OFWs.

The joint guidelines aim to clarify and harmonize existing regulations on the issuance of appropriate permits to all foreigners who intend to work, perform specific activities, and/or render services in the Philippines, whether in the context of an employment arrangement or otherwise.

It noted that the government agencies have identified 14 categories for the issuance of Special Work Permit (SWP), which include athletes, artists, journalists, chefs, among others.

“A Special Work Permit (SWP) shall be issued by the BI to foreign nationals who intend to work, engage in specific activities, or render services outside of an employment arrangement” it said.

“An SWP shall be granted in favor of an applicant who shall thereby be entitled to work in the Philippines for a maximum period of six months, non- renewable,” the joint guidelines added.

The BI will issue the SWP to non-resident aliens, who will be employed in the Philippines for a period not exceeding six months.

In contrast, a 9(g) visa is a working visa for aliens employed in the country, with contracts usually lasting for one to three years.

On the other hand, the DOLE shall issue the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) to foreigners who will work in the Philippines for more than six months.

“The DOLE is mandated to regulate the employment of aliens through the issuance of AEP to non-resident foreign nationals or to the applicant employer after a determination of the non-availability of a person in the Philippines who is competent, able and willing at the time of application to perform the services for which the alien is desired,” it added.

Foreign applicants are required to submit his/her Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) when applying for the permits.

“All applications for permits covered by this Joint Guidelines shall require TIN of the foreign national from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR),” the guidelines added.

In 2018, the BI issued a total of 83,760 SWPs, while the DOLE reported issuing a total of 54,241 AEPs, the primary requirement for securing the 9(g) visa.

Meanwhile, the DOLE, the Social Security System (SSS) and the Civil Service Commission also signed the IRR of the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law.

Covered by the law are female workers in the public and private sectors, in the informal economy, female members who are voluntary contributors to the SSS, and female national athletes.

The IRR has also allowed a female worker, at her option, to allocate up to seven days of said benefits to the child’s father, whether or not the same is married to the beneficiary.

“In case of death, absence, or incapacity of the child’s father, the female worker may allocate to an alternate caregiver who may be any of the following, upon the election of the mother taking into account the best interests of the child: a) A relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity; or b) The current partner, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, of the female worker sharing the same household. The option to allocate maternity leave credits shall not be applicable in case the female worker suffers miscarriage or emergency termination of pregnancy,” it added.

The IRR noted that violations of the law has a corresponding fine of at least PHP20,000 to a maximum of PHP200,000 and imprisonment of not less than six years and one day nor more than 12 years, or both.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have formalized their partnership via a MOA in providing skills training, technical education and assessment and certification for returning OFWs.

“Whereas, the Parties, agree to collaborate in a partnership venture to strengthen TESDA’s purposive intervention for returning OFWs, and also explore the development of a joint project on technical education and skills training, as well as assessment and certification for Returning Filipinos through the Comprehensive OFW Reintegration Program Framework,” the (MOA) read.

OWWA focuses on the welfare of the OFWs and their families. It is present in all three stages of migration: pre-departure, on-site, and upon arrival that when the OFW returns, it will provide livelihood trainings and programs for the OFWs reintegration.

TESDA is tasked to manage and supervise technical education and skills development in the Philippines. (PNA)