GVB: Another reason to exempt visas from the Philippines.
With the stroke of a pen, Guam has made significant progress toward its objective of a visa waiver for affluent Filipino tourists who wish to visit the island without a cumbersome application and waiting period.
On April 14, 2023, in Inalhan, Guam, representatives from the City of Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines and several villages of the U.S. territory of Guam, including Barrigada, Santa Rita-Sumay, Hgat, Humtak, Inalhan, and Yoa, signed an agreement to establish a new sister-city relationship between the Philippines and Guam.
The Mayors’ Council of Guam, with assistance from GVB, hosted a tour of the American island for government officials from the City Council of Paranaque from April 13 to April 16, 2023.
The signatories of the MOU vowed to promote reciprocal exchanges between their constituents and establish amicable cooperation and partnership in order to enhance interisland tourism and socioeconomic relations.
The Philippine Department of Finance – Bureau of Local Government recently reported that Paraaque is the sixth wealthiest city in the country, based on revenue of P6.2 billion ($111.8 million) in 2021.
“No matter what city they come from, our Filipino guests have a high on-island spend,” said GVB President and CEO Carl T.C. Gutierrez. “This is despite the fact that they must apply for visas to visit the United States, unlike travellers from Japan and South Korea, which are our primary supply markets.
“Guam has enjoyed many fruitful sister city relationships with municipalities in the Philippines,” said Gutierrez. “Paraaque is a city on the rise, and its officials’ genuine interest in Guam, USA, during our post-tsunami economic recovery and in anticipation of the relocation of 5,000 U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam are encouraging signs of future prosperity. Naturally, we enthusiastically welcome Congressman Edwin L. Olivarez’s support for visa allowances in his capacity as District Representative for Paranaque City, as well as the support of the numerous city councillors we welcomed to Guam in April.”
National security planning
Gutierrez announced in March of this year that GVB would leverage the United States Indo-Pacific Command’s growing defence posture and installation foothold across the Pacific islands to lobby the White House for expansion of the visa waiver program to the Philippines on the basis of economic security and co-prosperity.
Since 2019, the GVB president and former Guam governor has been actively lobbying the U.S., Philippine, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam administrations for visa exemptions for Filipinos. In the same year, Governor Lourdes A. “Lou” Leon Guerrero appointed him to be her special advisor on Economic Development, National and International Affairs.
Governor Leon Guerrero added to Gutierrez’s responsibilities by appointing him chairman of her Economic Strategy Council and her permit czar to help stimulate development and shepherd construction projects through Guam’s approval processes.
“In multiple instances, my team and I have been able to expedite the issuance of compliant permits by working closely with local government agencies,” said Gutierrez.
“I’m especially proud of our teamwork with Guam Department of Labor and Immigration Director David Dell’Isola and GDOL Alien Labor Processing and Certification Administrator Greg Massey,” said Gutierrez.
“David and Greg were extraordinarily helpful in resolving procedural snags in the processing of labour applications for highly qualified Overseas Filipino Workers whose specialized skills and H-2B visa statuses were urgently required for military contracting and other construction projects in Guam.
“The next step is to add the Philippines to the list of 12 other countries that are already eligible to travel to Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands without a visa under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security oversees. Countless Filipinos have attained middle-class or higher status and are in little danger of overstaying on our islands, where their whereabouts can be readily determined if necessary.
Gutierrez has garnered support for visa waivers for Filipino passport holders from mayors in Guam and the Philippines, officials in the CNMI, then-senator and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, current Deputy Speaker of the House Rufus B. Rodriguez, representing the 2nd district of Cagayan de Oro, and Guam Sen. Will Parkinson over the past four years. Rodriguez and Parkinson have even introduced legislative resolutions requesting visa exemptions for Filipinos travelling to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).