Guam governor directs adviser to work further on Filipino visa-waiver program

METRO MANILA VISIT: From left, Tommy Gutierrez, liaison; his father, former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez, chief adviser on economic development, national and international affairs in the Leon Guerrero administration; Philippine Sen. Manny Pacquiao; Dioceldo Sy, president and CEO of Ever Bilena Cosmetics Inc.; Gerry Penalosa, two-weight world champion Filipino boxer; and Guam Police Sgt. Cecil Sulla; are shown in Pacquiao's office on Sept. 5 in Metro Manila. Photo courtesy of Carl Gutierrez's office

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has tightened the entry of foreign workers from the Philippines, citing a high rate of overstays, former Gov. Carl Gutierrez continues to seek Filipino politicians' support of his lobbying for a visa waiver program for Guam-bound Filipino tourists.

Gutierrez, an adviser to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, announced recently he met on Sept. 5 with boxing figure and Philippine Sen. Manny Pacquiao to enlist Pacquiao's support. The former Guam governor also met with a Mindanao lawmaker, Rep. Rufus Bautista Rodriguez, of Cagayan de Oro City.

Gutierrez said he traveled using personal funds.

"Pacquiao and Rodriguez expressed such enthusiasm for the initiative that they even posed for photographs while holding a sign that reads, 'It’s time!! Philippine visa waiver to Guam, USA,'" Gutierrez, adviser to Leon Guerrero for economic development, national and international affairs, stated in a news release issued Thursday.

“I’m confident that Sen. Pacquiao and Congressman Rodriguez’s unqualified support for this worthwhile initiative will go a long way to encourage travel between the Philippines and Guam,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez also had traveled to Manila in April and June this year.  

Guam's government officials and tourism investors have spent more than a decade lobbying – in Washington, D.C., – for the island's visa waiver program to include tourists from the Philippines and mainland China. The White House – under the Clinton, Obama and Trump presidencies hadn't been keen on the idea of Filipino and Chinese tourists entering Guam without having gone through vetting in U.S. embassies and consular offices overseas.

Just a little more than a week ago, the Trump administration stopped the visa-wavier program for Russian tourists entering Guam and the Northern Marianas. 

Earlier this year, the Trump administration also suspended the Philippines from the list of countries that can supply workers to the United States on H-2B visas, citing a high rate of overstays, which the government of Guam denies. Guam has a 3% overstay rate for Filipino workers, the local government has stated.

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