HK employment agencies seek exemption from deployment ban
EMPLOYMENT agencies have appealed to Philippine labor officials to exempt Hong Kong-bound Filipino workers from the temporary deployment ban.
Teresa Liu of the Association of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies Ltd. (AHKMA), and Kitman Cheung of Overseas Employment Centre (Hong Kong and Macau) met with Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre on Nov. 13 to appeal for Hong Kong’s exemption.
“We met with the Labor Attache, and we requested that Hong Kong be (exempted),” said Cheung in a press conference with Dela Torre and Liu held at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Admiralty Centre.
Dela Torre said he would relay the sentiments of Hong Kong employment agencies to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
Bello on Nov. 9 signed Department Order no. 185, suspending the processing of all new application for overseas employment certificates (OECs) effective for 15 working days from Nov. 13 to Dec. 1 “subject to extension as circumstances may require”.
Manila is requiring all Filipinos leaving the Philippines to work overseas to secure an OEC before being allowed to board the plane.
Bello said the suspension of the issuance of OECs was intended to “protect the public from the pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos desiring to work overseas.”
He also ordered an investigating team to look into the “root of this malfeasance” and to “submit their official findings and recommendations”.
Cheung estimates that about 2,000 new domestic worker hires from the Philippines would be affected by the ban.
During the press conference, Dela Torre said that in Hong Kong’s case, a number of Filipino domestic workers had left the city to seek employment in countries such as Russia, and Turkey, among others.
Dela Torre said Philippine Consulate and Labor officials raised the concern to the Labour Department officials during a Oct. 25 Technical Working Group meeting.
He said at least four Filipinos, who came from Hong Kong and moved to Russia to work there, have signed their complaint affidavits against those who recruited them to work in Russia.
Dela Torre said the POLO was aware of at least three Hong Kong employment agencies that were recruiting Filipinos in the city to work in Russia.
“We have suspended the accreditation of these two agencies, and we will soon refer them to the LD for further action,” he added.
These agencies, Dela Torre said, are owned by “Hong Kong people and operated by Hong Kong people”.
Although there is no law in Hong Kong restricting employment agencies to deploy workers to other countries, he said the matter should still be considered a concern.
“It should be a concern to us all because there are contracts that are being broken, contracts with employers, and these employers would have to look for new employees,” he said.
The POLO chief also said it was estimated that there were 5,000 Filipinos working in Russia and these workers were recruited from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Cyprus, and Dubai, among other places.
Meanwhile, Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the solution to corruption in the POEA and illegal recruitment in the Philippines is the abolition of OEC.
“Gusto nating arestuhin ang illegal recruiters at itigil ang illegal trafficking, pero hindi ito ang solusyon.
“Ang ban ay hindi lang naman sa mga papunta sa Russia at Turkey, para sa lahat,” she said.
Balladares-Pelaez added that the order could jeopardize the employment status of those who have found an employer so they could work overseas.
“Ang apektado dito hindi lang yung mga would-be OFWs, pati families nila. Imagine, they have spent money for their overseas employment, some of them have resigned from their jobs and now it is uncertain whether they would be allowed to leave the country.
“Worse, what if their employer decides to hire someone else instead because they could not wait for the Filipino worker? It is the worker who suffers here,” she said.
However, Liu said Hong Kong employers were willing to wait out the ban so they could hire their domestic workers from the Philippines.