HAGÅTÑA (Office of the Governor of Guam) – Governor Lou Leon Guerrero is in the Philippines to lead a series of meetings related to economic issues of mutual concern and overall Guam-Philippines relations.
Governor Leon Guerrero held a meeting with U.S. Charge d’Affaires Heather C. Variava at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The meeting was also attended by US Embassy Consul General Mark McGovern and representatives from the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce.
Governor Leon Guerrero opened the meeting by acknowledging the United States Embassy in the Philippines for its work in processing H-2B work visas and, in particular, the Embassy’s critical role in building Guam, Indo-Pacific strategy and Pacific deterrence initiatives. The group discussed the importance of Filipino H-2B workers to the execution of critical military and civilian construction projects in Guam.
“Guam has seen a dramatic increase in construction projects inside and outside the fence. Without these skilled workers from the Philippines who complement our local workforce, we will not be able to fully realize Guam’s economic potential,” she said. “I also took the opportunity to renew our efforts for a visa waiver program in Guam.”
A Guam visa waiver will allow Filipinos to enter Guam without a pre-approved U.S. visa to visit or be employed under the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant worker programs. Governor Leon Guerrero signed Executive Order 2019-22 to begin the process of including the Philippines in Guam’s visa waiver program.
“Chargé d’Affaires Variava was very welcoming and understood our situation in Guam. I am very happy with our meeting. Mr. Paul Taylor, Chief Commercial Officer of the Department of Commerce, and Col. Edward Evans of the Department of Defense, also expressed their support for a whole-of-government approach to solving our complex challenges,” said Governor Leon Guerrero, who additionally shared concerns related to improving the safety and security of Guam and the Indo-Pacific region.
“We talked about current geopolitical issues and discussed supporting Guam’s food security. Approximately 90% of cargo entering our island passes through the Port Authority of Guam. I spoke of the port’s need to replace three gantry cranes, rehabilitate its docks and address its aging facilities,” Governor Leon Guerrero added. “We look forward to welcoming more support from the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce for these critical infrastructure projects,” the governor said.
Chargé d’Affaires Variava said there are currently no issues with processing H-2B visas for Guam, but acknowledged that the U.S. Embassy is addressing challenges with processing tourist visas for Guam. . Variava was very supportive of the governor’s stance on supporting the Philippines to address the labor shortage, which is being accomplished as Guam develops more of the local workforce through training programs. of apprentices. Variava is committed to continuing to prioritize worker visa applications.
DOD officials discussed with the governor the Department of Defense’s military construction budget over the next nine fiscal years, which currently stands at $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year and will include a missile defense system. The group also discussed opportunities to grow Guam’s economy through the transshipment initiatives of Governor Leon Guerrero and Vice President Tina Muna Barnes in coordination with the Guam Economic Development Authority, Guam Airport Authority, Port and private ocean carriers currently serving Guam.
Immediately following the meeting with US Embassy officials, Governor Leon Guerrero met with Bernard P. Olalia, Undersecretary of the Philippine Department of Migrant Workers for Licensing and Arbitration. Undersecretary Olalia is also in charge of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or POEA. Under Secretary Olalia was joined by Arnaldo Arevalo Ignacio, the new head of the Philippine Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Congressman Ron P. Salo and businesswomen and men based in the Philippines interested in competing for business opportunities in Guam.
Governor Leon Guerrero instructed the POEA Undersecretary to have a labor attaché stationed in Guam and to develop a country-specific employment contract that would protect migrant workers while working in Guam. These questions had been raised before the pandemic by Guam Labor Director David Dell’Islola and former Governor Carl Gutierrez in his capacity as Chairman of Governor Leon Guerrero’s Economic Strategy Council. Governor Leon Guerrero has invited Filipino labor officials to Guam to meet in person with the Guam Contractors Association and Guam labor officials, hoping this will provide an opportunity to push a plan forward to federal governments. American and Filipino.
Governor Leon Guerrero also visited St. Luke’s Medical Center to meet with his senior officials to discuss what could be done within laws and regulations to rotate doctors and nurse practitioners to increase needs. of Guam into additional health care workers. In attendance were Dr. Anthony R. Perez, associate medical director, Dr. Dennis P. Serrano, executive vice president of St. Luke’s One Healthcare System, and Virginia M. Flores, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.