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Working In The Philippines

A photo of someone working at dishing up cafeteria food


I’ve heard the same old song over and over again from expats. It goes like this, “Oh, I love living in the Philippines because it doesn’t have any of those stupid, stifling rules like that stupid, stifling government of mine back in my country.”

To some extent, it’s true. There are rules, laws, in many fully developed countries that seem dumb and counterproductive. Usually, though, what the expat means is: “I love living in the Philippines because I can do whatever I want.” And that attitude will get you into trouble.

Take It But Don’t Dish It Out

My wife is opening a carinderia. I have been extremely careful to have absolutely nothing to do with it beyond tasting the recipes she is going to use.

She has done all of the financial work in her name. The lease is in her name. Even the name of the eatery has her initials in it. She’s supervising the construction from her design. She is purchasing all of the equipment, disposables, and raw ingredients. She’ll even be cooking the food, along with her sister.

I have been very clear and purposeful from the beginning: I will not have anything to do with the design or operation of the place except for eating there sometimes. I will take the food but have nothing to do with dishing it out. See?

Why? Because it’s illegal for me to work here in the Philippines. And operating a carinderia is “working”.

Working In The Philippines? Hold On There

A photo of a Filipino construction worker who is working in the Philippines

This guy is working, something most visitors cannot legally do.

In April of this year, a news story was published about an American who was arrested on Boracay Island for being in the country on a Tourist visa while owning/operating a resort.

The American had been visiting the Philippines since 2005 and had been in the country since 2016. He apparently had been extending his Tourist visa for two years.

Unfortunately for him, only certain classes of Philippine visa holders can work. “The rule is that aliens holding tourist visas are not allowed to engage in any form of gainful employment or business activity, while on a Tourist visa without the necessary permit and visa to do so,” according to BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang.

The fellow is now going to be deported. Whatever dreams he had of enjoying life as a resort owner on beautiful Boracay are over.

You Can’t Always Do What You Want

The truth is, we expats can’t do whatever we want to here, even though it seems sometimes that the laws aren’t being enforced.

Sometimes, expats and visitors push the envelope when it comes to the law, like the Boracay resort owner above. Other times, they simply don’t realize what they’re doing or that things have changed around them.

The tourists who took nude photos in front of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat a few years ago probably weren’t trying to be disrespectful and they probably didn’t think that Cambodians would enforce any sort of law against what they were doing. But Cambodian law caught up to them.

The American “Instagram model” Kinsey Golden and her boyfriend, who were island hopping through the Philippines, were stopped by police in Baclayon, Bohol for “indecency” back in April 2018.

They were riding a motorcycle wearing swimwear. That’s something tourists all over the world do. But in Baclayon, shirtless men and women with their butts hanging out of the bikini bottoms are considered to be “indecent”. They were ticketed and allowed to go after covering up.

They didn’t intend to offend but they didn’t realize that the area they were in was suddenly different than the beach they were on or wherever else they may have been hopping from.

In another town or perhaps on another day, they may not have been noticed by the law. But it goes to show that you can’t always do what you want.

What About Working Remotely?

The affiliate marketing cycle: advertise, track, analyze, profit.If I type on my keyboard here in Davao and publish to my website that makes money from ads, am I working in the Philippines? Well, I’m not sure.

Certainly, resides on a server in the United States so I’m working remotely. I think I’m okay on that point. But what about affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is basically advertising products and sharing a small percentage of the sale when the product is purchased by a customer. Special links are used so that the company can tell that the customer purchased because of your advertisement.

Again, I use Google Adsense like millions of other people. Google is based in the US so I think I’m okay there.

But I was also marketing for the Philippines’ arm of That means I would have been making a small percentage of money from Filipinos if they bought products through my ads. Is that legal? How about if I use my wife’s tax ID, making her the recipient of any proceeds from sales? Is that okay? Is that being honest?

I don’t have ready answers to these questions so I’ve stopped advertising for Until I can say for sure that I’m not breaking (or stretching) Philippines labor law, I will not advertise their products.

Stay tuned – I plan to update this post when I know more.



FIlipino worker photo resized from an original by: mikecogh Flickr via Compfight cc


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