Labatt Nida gets PCG clearance

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Labor Attache Nida Romulo

THE Philippine Consulate General (PCG) has given the green light to the deployment of Labor Attache (Labatt) Leonida V. Romulo to Hong Kong as the replacement of former Labatt Jalilo Dela Torre.

The PCG gave its “clearance” for the accreditation of Romulo, who once served as assistant labor attache (ALA) to Hong Kong, on May 6. The clearance was sought on April 30, a source who asked not to be identified, told Hong Kong News.

“The consulate did not pose any objection to the accreditation of Labatt Nida as the new head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and said that it was looking forward to her arrival,” the source said.

“She is expected to arrive in Hong Kong later this month,” the source added.

Romulo served as ALA in Hong Kong for six years before returning to Manila and then getting assigned as the Philippine labor attache to Canada in 2013.

Asked for comment, Consul Paul Saret, head of the PCG-Assistance to Nationals Section, said he was not aware if the consulate had already given clearance to anyone.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier ordered the recall of Dela Torre to Manila after he was accused of favouritism in the accreditation of employment agencies in Hong Kong.

The recall order sparked protests from members of the Filipino community in the city since Dela Torre was credited with advancing the rights of overseas Filipino workers here.

Hong Kong News tried to contact Bello and ask about Romulo replacing Dela Torre but the Philippine labor chief was in Kuwait and did not reply to phone calls.

In his last interview with Hong Kong News on April 22, Bello insisted that Dela Torre was recalled to Manila “to explain his side” on the accusations against him.

“I don’t know why it became blown out of proportion. He was recalled so he can explain. It was not a punishment or penalty,” Bello said.

“If it is found that he committed a mistake, he will have to face the consequences. But if he is not guilty of anything, then he will return to Hong Kong,” he added.

Bello said an investigation team headed by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Deputy Administrator Aristodes Ruaro recommended Dela Torre’s recall. Ruaro’s team made a surprise visit to Hong Kong from January 25 to 27 and conducted an inquiry. Dela Torre was on vacation at the time.

“We sent a team to verify the complaint that he was playing favorites when it comes to accreditation. The team that went to Hong Kong recommended that he be recalled to explain,” Bello said.

Former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople, of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, expressed disbelief that Dela Torre was recalled. She said Dela Torre was behind the filing of anti-human trafficking cases against illegal recruiters who were luring unsuspecting migrants to Russia and the United Kingdom.

Dela Torre was also credited with successfully pushing for the inclusion of a provision in the employment contract of foreign domestic workers in HK that they cannot be forced to clean windows, especially in high-rise buildings, from the outside.

The Society of Hong Kong Recruiters Accredited to the Philippines (SHARP) appealed to Bello to retain Dela Torre, noting that his recall triggered a wave of protests among the various stakeholders in Hong Kong and Manila.

In a letter to Bello, SHARP President Alfredo Palimiery said Dela Torre is a staunch opponent of human traffickers and the programs that he introduced in the Hong Kong labor market “improved the welfare, protection, and benefits for our household service workers in that special region of China.

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