By Ellson Quismorio
1-CARE Party-List Rep. Carlos Roman Uybarreta is urging his colleagues to expedite the passage of the proposed new Philippine Immigration Act as a way to address the issue on the influx of foreign workers to the Philippines.
Uybarreta, vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy, said Wednesday that he would consult with committee chairpersons as well as the House leadership on possibly prioritizing House Bill (HB) no.7939 when Congress resumes session on May 20.
Uybarreta is among the authors of the measure, which is also known as the Commission on Immigration Act.
“HB 7939 would be the policy solution to ongoing concerns about the influx of foreign workers without proper immigration and Labor Department clearances,” the lawmaker said.
According to him, the bill only needs to go through second and third reading, but although the Senate still has to consolidate the six immigration bills pending at the committee level.
“If the House and Senate leaders can agree on expediting the pending immigration reform bills, there is still time for both chambers to approve the bill and transmit it to President Rodrigo Duterte before the 17th Congress adjourns its session in June,” Uybarreta noted.
There has been many attempts dating back to 2009 during the 14th Congress to update the antiquated Commonwealth Act No. 613, which is the current core immigration law of the Philippines. The law dates back to the 1940s.
“Updating this Commonwealth era law is definitely long-overdue, not just because it is 79 years old, but also because the entire world has changed much since then,” Uybarreta said.
“Congress must update our immigration architecture for the present and future challenges of immigration, tourism, business, cross-border professional practice, and migrant labor,” he added.
HB 7939 prescribes a whole range of categories of non-immigrants and types of visa issued for each visa category, including the G-visa for prearranged employment; the A-1 visa for business visitors; the D-1 visa for treaty traders; and the D-2 visa for treaty investors.
The current law has no sub-categories. Mere bureau issuances created the sub-categories presently used, Uybarreta said.
The measure also provides the charter for a new Commission on Immigration, elevating the whole agency from bureau status, and creating the various directorates within the new agency.
HB 7939 prescribes the powers and responsibilities of the whole Commission on Immigration, including deciding on deportation cases, immigration status, and citizenship applications.
While awaiting the new law, Uybarreta said the Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, and Bureau of Immigration simply have to effectively implement their current rules and regulations on the issuance of visas, work permits, and airport verification processes.