POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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300,000 H1B visas for Pinoys, other aliens

EXPECT a scramble among Filipinos for H1B (professional workers) visas.

The American embassy in Manila is being swamped with queries about news reports that the US computer industry will need close to 300,000 programmers from the Philippines and elsewhere in the next three years.

“We cannot find enough computer programmers,” embassy spokesman Thomas Skipper was quoted by the Manila Standard as saying. “We lack people who have technical expertise, so the industry is suffering a slowdown.”

The spokesman said, however, that the embassy has not authorized any recruitment agency in Manila to process visa applications. Most likely it never will, since the US consulate and not any outside entity do visa processing.

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SKIPPER said applicants for H1B visas (professional worker category) cannot just line up at the embassy since they first have to be petitioned by the hiring US companies. And these firms have to file first a petition with the US Department of Labor.

This is so, because the US government has to protect the jobs of American workers from undue encroachment by foreigners.

But there are American computer firms in Manila such as IBM, Microsoft and Intel whose more competent Filipino workers may be recommended by them for hiring by their mother companies in the US, according to Skipper.

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THE embassy spokesman said Filipinos stand a better chance of being hired, because of their better technical skills overall.

Stateside managers have also remarked that Filipino computer technicians easily adapt themselves to the US workplace, are hard-working and, in the case of programmers, more intuitive than mechanical in their approach to their assignments.

Other foreigners that seem to be favored are Indians whose communication skills (language) are said to be acceptable.

One expected handicap of many applicants is their lack of verifiable local (US) experience. Also, many American firms do not look for experience in general, but creditable work in specific areas or computer language.

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THE reports followed earlier news attributed to Manuel Imson, labor attaché in the Philippine embassy in Washington, DC, that the US will recruit from foreign sources close to 300,000 computer workers that the US labor market cannot fill.

Aside from high-tech computer personnel, Imson was quoted as saying that the US was likely to continue recruiting foreign nurses and therapists.

He reported that the H1B visas to be issued are broken down into 115,000 in 1999 and 2000, and 107,500 for 2001. This is an improvement over the 65,000 H1B visas usually allowed annually.

Most of the H1B visas to be issued will be good for six years, it was learned.

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SOME Manila councilors, meanwhile, are again frothing in the mouth as they passed a resolution declaring Hollywood actress Claire Danes as persona non grata and banning her films from showing in theaters in the capital city.

A similar resolution was filed in suburban Quezon City against the 19-year-old actress who was quoted in the US press as saying that during her three-month “Brokendown Palace” shooting in Manila, she saw beggars, homeless children and physically handicapped roaming the streets.

She also commented on the dilapidated state of a mental institution here, which her crew shot as a Thai prison in the movie.

They were shooting earlier in Bangkok, but the group moved out for fear that sensitive Thai authorities might harass them for the negative drift (for Bangkok) of the storyline.

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IN the April issue of Vogue, Danes also described Manila as “ghastly and weird.” Then in a recent interview with Premiere magazine, she said Manila “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over and there is no sewerage system and the people do not have anything — no arms, no legs, no eyes.”

Whatever it was that she said, however exaggerated, we think our officials are overly sensitive. This is a free country. Everyday, we hear similar negative comments ad nauseam in our local media.

What our officials should do is to clean up the place, look after the children and the handicapped, gather the beggars and make them productive, et cetera. Banning a foreign actress will not solve the problems she had cited.

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GET a load of this other one: American comedienne John Rivers blurted in the recent Emmy Awards telecast by E! Entertainment Television:

“We’re going to a commercial break, so you have time to feed your dog, or wash your dog, of if you’re Filipino, eat your dog!”

E! was promptly bombarded with angry remarks of scandalized viewers, many of them demanding an apology.

E! responded with an apology via the Internet, saying in email to those who sent in their comments:

“We value the opinion of our viewers, and appreciated receiving your recent letter. E! Entertainment Television deeply regrets that recent comments telecast by the network were offensive to members of the Filipino community… E! apologizes for any offense which was taken and, as is our practice, we will edit those from any future uses of the program material.”

Rivers has yet to apologize, but don’t count on it.

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