POLO seeks transfer to new office

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The POLO office in the 11th floor of the Admiralty Centre.

THE Philippine Overseas Labor Office may soon relocate to a new office that will save the post money and do away with strict building  security measures, restricting the entry of Filipino workers to its premises on Sundays.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre told Hong Kong News he has submitted on Apr. 20 a proposal to the Labor office in Manila to approve the POLO’s transfer from Admiralty Centre to Lippo Centre, also in Admiralty.

“The transfer will cost some because there would be some renovation,” he said in an interview with Hong Kong News.

Dela Torre said the new office they are eyeing in Lippo Centre is smaller in area compared to the areas of the two floors (11th and 16th) the POLO is presently occupying at the Admiralty Centre.

However, the public area of the new office would allow Filipino workers to wait inside the office, instead of being asked to queue at the bridge near the Admiralty Centre.

“If our proposal would be approved, we’d be getting the whole floor there, and we have four lifts. Hindi na pipila ang mga tao kung saan-saan,” he said.

On Sundays, when many Filipinos come to the POLO to process various requirements, the Admiralty Centre building security would be strict and limit the number of Filipinos who would be allowed in the POLO premises.

“It’s (strict security) the main reason we are leaving,”  said Dela Torre.

Besides the bigger area to accommodate more POLO clients, Dela Torre added the rent for their present offices would be raised once their contract expires in the last quarter of the year.

“I don’t know the exact figures, but it’s going to be cheaper. Our lease now will be hiked from $42,000 per square foot to $50,000. Monthly, we pay some $450,000 in rent here and in Lippo Centre, it would be some $420,000,” he said.

Maintenance costs of the present POLO premises would also be reduced as they are presently maintaining two floors. In Lippo Centre, the two POLO floors would be combined to one floor.

Dela Torre said they initially wanted to move back to the United Centre, but there was  no contiguous space available for them.

He said the transfer should not inconvenience POLO clients who also have transactions at the Philippine Consulate in United Centre as the Lippo Centre is also nearby.

Meanwhile, Eman Villanueva,  secretary-general of the United Filipinos-Migrante-HK, said  the transfer of the POLO to Lippo Centre could cause “added inconvenience to those who would need to submit requirements to the Consulate and the POLO.”

“Pero kasi ngayon, ang isang concern naming sa current na opisina ng POLO ay iyong napakalaking renta. Ang tanong namin ‘is it cost-effective’. Fully-utilized ba ang budget. Iyon ba ay nagbebenepisyo sa mga manggagawa o lumaki lang ang overhead costs. Kung ganoon, they might as well rechannel the money para sa direct services for the Filipino workers like shelter, and welfare assistance,” he said.

The abolition of the overseas employment certificate and other unnecessary requirements and fees, Villanueva said, remains the best solution to ensure Filipino workers are not inconvenienced.

In May 2016, Dela Torre said they planned to return to the United Centre building in Admiralty and would save taxpayers $200,000 a month.

Dela Torre said the POLO wanted to transfer back to the United Centre, where the Philippine Consulate General is located, from its current offices at Admiralty Centre so that it could save money.

“We spend $400,000 a month here but between this and United Centre, it’s cheaper in United Centre. We can save about half (of the current rent),” Dela Torre said in an interview.

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