PH eyes sending teachers to China

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From left to right: Incoming Philippine Consul-General to Hong Kong Antonio Morales, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, and Deputy Consul-General Roderico Atienza

Manila-Beijing labor pact breakthrough in 2018 seen

THE Philippines and China may soon come out with a labor pact that will initially allow Filipinos to teach English in Shanghai, and Beijing.

In an interview  on Nov. 30 with Hong Kong News at the sidelines of the opening ceremony for the exhibition “Ifugao Sculpture: Expressions in Cordillera Art” at the Hong Kong University, Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano said they “hope to a have breakthrough by the first quarter of next year.”

“As far as the English teachers, it’s looking good. Both sides are firming up the agreement [and addressing] the concerns. It’d be a good first step, and of course, on the Chinese side, they just want to make sure the quality and teaching ability are up to international standards,” Cayetano said.

As for the possibility of sending Filipinos who will work as domestic helpers in the mainland, Cayetano said Manila and Beijing were also discussing this.

“All I can is that as of now, we’re discussing it, but there are a lot of issues and there are two things that I can say: the [Chinese] upper middle class families want to have Filipino [domestic workers] because they see how we care for the [Hong Kong] family especially their children, but there are issues and we’re discussing those now,” he said.

Cayetano added that countries which have a large middle class usually employ household helps, and the Chinese families see the benefit to the Hong Kong and Macau economy of hiring foreign domestic workers.

In May, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III hinted that the Philippines and China were firming up a labor agreement that would expand the market and ensure ample protection for OFWs.

In a previous interview, Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre confirmed that he submitted recommendations to Bello about the possibility of allowing Filipinos to seek employment in China.

However, in August, Bello denied Manila and Beijing were holding talks about hiring Filipino domestic workers for the mainland, following reports that Chinese embassy officials met with Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say, who was quoted as saying a P100,000-monthly pay for household service workers was possible.

The minimum allowable wage for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong is $4,410 or about P27,000.

As of the end of October, there were 201,354 Filipinos working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, according to the Immigration Department.

In July, when Cayetano first met the Filipino community in a meeting held at the Philippine Consulate, he said the Philippines was negotiating with China and other countries for the deployment of Filipino workers.

He added that opening up new markets for OFWs could improve the working conditions of Filipinos in their present host countries.

The Philippine government, he said, is working hard to open these new opportunities for OFWs so they could choose the best place for them.

Before coming to Hong Kong then, Cayetano and his delegation were in Beijing.

Discussions

For this year, Cayetano said the discussions focused on Filipinos teaching English in China.

Although the discussions only cited Beijing and Shanghai as possible destinations for Filipino English teachers, he said it was also possible that other places could open up opportunities for Filipinos.

“Remember there’s one billion Chinese and their economy has been booming for 20 years…and I assume because those are their financial (Shanghai) and government (Beijing) capital, I wouldn’t take it past them to pick certain universities, certain areas that have special interests where they like Filipinos to be in,” he said.

Corollary to this, Cayetano said Manila is assessing places in China where its presence and consulates would be needed.

“We’re looking at two things: where the Filipinos are, and the where the Filipinos will go and where the tourists are coming from para ma-strengthen natin ang consulates, at kung walang consulate doon, makapag-open tayo,” he added.

While the standard of quality of Filipino teachers to be deployed was the top concern of Beijing, Manila, Cayetano said, wanted to ensure the welfare of Filipino workers.

“We’re always looking at the welfare and to make sure there are no abuses to Filipinos going abroad…Both our [DFA] legal department and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment)  are looking at what will be the legal protection [for our workers].

“We don’t send workers to countries that don’t protect workers, but what is written and what actually happens are two different things…It’s really an agreement between the governments to treat as their own the workers that are going to work,” Cayetano said.

Beijing, on the other hand, wanted assurances that the investments of Chinese businessmen and the workers who will be sent to the Philippines would be safe and protected.

In a separate interview, Manuel Teehankee Jr., DFA Undersecretary for International Economic Relations,  said that if China allows the hiring of Filipino domestic workers, it could lead to evolve into the development of skills of these workers.

“Don’t forget that domestic workers are subpart of the service industry and during the natural evolution, there are of course, larger levels of base skills, but as the economy develops…and the Philippines is increasingly more sophisticated, the jobs have to move to the next level because wages are also increasing,” he said.

Teehankee said Manila is looking to further develop its human resources to take advantage of these opportunities.

“Every individual should be given as much capacity, education, and skills in order to generate the highest potential earnings while not sacrificing the quality of life and their families,” Teehankee added.

Data from Commission on Filipino Overseas put the number of Filipinos in China at 29,691. However, a number of Filipinos have been working there illegally as domestic workers.

A migrant workers’ leader previously told Hong Kong News that the Duterte administration’s bid to send workers to China contradicted the president’s promise to provide better and decent jobs to Filipinos to persuade them to stay in the Philippines instead of leaving overseas.

Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of United Filipinos-Migrante-Hong Kong, said that instead of pursuing new overseas labor markets for Filipinos, the Duterte administration should fulfill its promise of national industrialization and genuine land reform to encourage Filipinos to stay in the Philippines.

As for the bid to allow Filipinos to work in China, Villanueva said this contradicts Duterte’s promise to create more economic opportunities in the Philippines for Filipinos.

“Ang tingin namin palayo iyan ng palayo sa aming hangand na sana pokusan ng gobyerno ang pag-develop ng maraming trabaho sa Pilipinas.

“At hindi lang basta trabaho, kundi stable jobs, well-paying jobs, nakakabuhay at disente para hindi magkawatak-watak ang mga pamilya,” Villanueva said.

 

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