President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (right) and US President Donald Trump.

MANILA – Malacañang respects the decision of US President Donald Trump to suspend new employment-based visas from being issued this year, including the type of visas generally used for high-skilled workers.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the US and any other sovereign state are free to decide on such policies.

“We respect that decision kasi tayo nga po di natin pinapapasok ang mga work visa holders. ‘Yan po yung naging desisyon ng IATF (because we also do not allow the entry of work visa holders. That is the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” he said in a virtual presser on Tuesday.

Trump issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks the entry of foreign workers on H-1B visas for skilled workers and L-1 visas for workers being transferred within a company through the end of the year to protect American workers from foreign competition for jobs as the US struggles to recover from the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Those who already have valid visas will not be affected, even if they are currently outside of the US, reports showed.

However, over half a million people are expected to be prevented from entering the country legally on employment visas.

Roque, meanwhile, bared that the IATF has yet to decide whether it will allow the entry of foreign workers in the country amid the flight restrictions due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said the IATF-EID, under resolution No. 48, formed a sub-technical working group (TWG) “to study and address the management of foreign nationals who will be allowed to enter the Philippines for specific purposes.”

“A sub-TWG led by Department of Tourism, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Finance, Department of Justice with Bureau of Immigration, Department of Health with Bureau of Quarantine, and Board of Investments, is hereby constituted to study and address the management of foreign nationals who will be allowed to enter the Philippines for specific purposes,” the resolution read.

According to Roque, this comes after a foreign embassy appealed to allow its nationals with work permits to enter the Philippines. He did not reveal which embassy made the request.

“Meron po kasing nag-request na embahada kung pupwede ‘yung kanilang mga nationals na merong work permit at saka yung kinakailangang consultants para sa mga flagship projects ay papasukin na. Hindi pa po naaprubahan ‘yan at binigay po sa TWG para pag-aralan (An embassy requested us to allow the entry of their nationals with work permits including necessary consultants for flagship projects. That has not been approved yet and it has been passed to the TWG for review),” he said.

While the IATF-EID has yet to come up with a final decision, Roque said foreigners will still be prohibited from entering the country.

Currently, only returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Filipino citizens, their spouses and dependents, permanent residents, and foreign diplomats are allowed to enter the country.

Foreigners can leave the country anytime but Filipinos are not allowed to leave unless they are OFWs or permanent residents or holders of a student visa in their country of destination. (PNA)