Worried Filipinos brace themselves for Trump′s presidency | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 22.11.2016
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Worried Filipinos brace themselves for Trump's presidency

What will a Trump Presidency mean for Filipino migrants in the US? What will be the consequences for Filipinos working for US companies in the Philippines? Ana P. Santos reports from Manila.

Lester Ramos' phone started ringing almost non-stop as soon as it became clear that Donald Trump had won the US elections.

"Our members were panicking, they were scared that they were going to get deported," Ramos told DW via phone from California. Ramos heads the Orange County-chapter of labor group Migrante International.

There are more than 3 million Filipinos living in the United States, representing the largest segment of Filipinos living outside of the Philippines and the second largest Asian minority in the US.

According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, more than 270,000 Filipinos in the US are classified as irregular or undocumented migrants.

Ramos himself started his life in America as an undocumented migrant. He was recruited from the Philippines to be a seasonal worker at an amusement park but when he arrived in the US, there was no job waiting for him.

He spent four years working odd jobs as an undocumented migrant until labor assistance groups advised him to have his case classified as human trafficking so he could apply for regularization of his stay.

Caught off-guard by Trump's victory

"We were not expecting Trump to win. We were unprepared for what might happen," said Ramos. The different Filipino labor groups are now scrambling to consolidate their concerns and prepare a plan of action.

Most of the members are worried about Trump's announcement to immediately deport 3 million illegal migrants and the outward discrimination that they are now experiencing.

"The six-year-old daughter of one of our members said that her classmate said she was going to be deported. A six-year-old!" said Ramos.

A statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila called for "contextualizing" Trump's deportation plans.

Phillippinen Rodrigo Duterte (Reuters/L. Daval Jr)

Rodrigo Duterte threat to US companies in his country: 'Pack up and leave'

"A vast majority of the 3 million Filipinos residing in the US have legal residency or citizenship status, pay their taxes and generally obey American laws. As such, we presently do not expect President-elect Trump's immigration pronouncements to have a calamitous impact on the Filipino community there."

However, Labor secretary Silvestre Bello urged Filipinos in the United States to "come home before US President-elect Donald Trump makes good on his promise to deport millions of illegal migrants."

Business interests

One of the industries that is bracing itself for a Trump presidency is the business process outsourcing sector which brings in an estimated $25 billion (23,56 billion euros), thus making it one of the largest contributors to the Southeast Asian nation's GDP.

According to the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), about 70 percent of their clients are US-based companies who save about 15-20 percent in operating costs by outsourcing various business needs to the Philippines. The industry would be crippled if Trump makes good on his plans to recall offshore jobs.

Furthermore, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's blistering remarks to President Barack Obama recently sent jitters among the American business community in the Philippines. Duterte also challenged US companies "to pack their bags. We will recover, I assure you."

Genny Marcial, IBPAP executive director for external affairs declined a request for interview and instead issued a statement, "As in the past US elections, the association will monitor the policies that will be undertaken by the winning candidate before we provide our views. We would rather not issue any forward looking statement at this time."

John Nitafan, 23, is one of the more than 1.2 million people employed by a call center servicing the customer service needs of a US account.

"I didn't want Trump to win because he is clearly a racist and a bigot. Now that he is the President, I'm anxious about his plans to bring jobs back to the US," he said.

Nitafan can earn up to more than $1,000 a month with incentives tied to his work. He doubts that he could ever earn that much in another industry as an undergraduate. "If the call center industry folds, my only other prospect would be to go abroad and work."

Genny Marcial of the IBPAP also didn't think that there would a Trump Presidency. She declined to comment further and instead issued a statement.

'Colorful rhetoric'

Jericho Carrillo, 32, has been in the call center industry for more than 8 years now. He has two brothers who also work in a call center. "I don't think it would be cost efficient for US companies to bring back jobs that they outsource here."

Carrillo is not as worried but is taking on a wait and see attitude. "I personally think Trump's words are colorful rhetoric but since he has no track record as a politician, it's hard to say how far he will take it."

And if the Americans are highly doubtful about their president, Carrillo has absolute faith in his.

"I believe in Duterte. He knows what he's doing."

When asked to comment on the issue of deportation and recall of offshore jobs, Molly Koscina, Press Attache of the US Embassy in Manila issued this statement to DW: "President Obama is in office until January 20, 2017. Until then, it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on the policy initiatives of the next administration."