The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) has assured that the deployment of Taiwan-bound overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will resume very soon.
MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez made the statement after his top-level meeting on Tuesday with Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor (MoL) Minister Hsu Ming-Chun.
Fernandez said the meeting centered on his continuing bid for Taiwan to reopen its borders to OFW as well as to alleviate their plight and working conditions.
This, after Taiwan lifted the travel restrictions among migrant workers following a surge in the number of local Covid-19 cases on 19 May 2021.
Earlier, lawyer Cesar Chavez, Jr. the labor attaché in Taiwan said that Republic of China is likely to reopen its doors to OFW after the celebration of the 2022 Lunar New Year when more quarantine facilities are expected to be available.
Fernandez said he reiterated during the meeting his request to Hsu to allow the return of the OFW who have been seeking deployment for the past eight months.
He added that Hsu vowed a continuing review of Taiwan’s labor rules to protect migrant workers’ rights, including those of the Filipinos, and to promote policies that would improve not only relations but also other benefits such as health care.
According to Fernandez, the Labor Minister cited the Philippines as an important international partner and the immense contribution of Filipinos to Taiwan’s economic development.
He thanked the Taiwan government for providing one of the best working environments for migrants, regardless of nationality, as he cited the very low labor cases due to fair working conditions in the country.
Fernandez said he also discussed with Minister Hsu the issue of pay parity of household workers (HHW) to factory workers.
Noting that Filipino HHW are generally well-educated and are known for being hardworking and responsible housekeepers of their employer’s household, the MECO Chairman suggested to the Labor Minister to consider raising their pay at par with the factory workers.
Minister Hsu took note of the suggestion and said she would discuss the matter with the concerned officials while ensuring to strike a balance in the industry.
Data from MECO showed that there’s now a total of 158,410 Filipinos in Taiwan — the majority of them are women.
Most of them are working in textile, metal, rubber, and paper companies. They are followed by caretakers of elderlies or children.
Fernandez reiterated his strong objection to exorbitant fees Philippine recruitment agencies charge from OFW, saying this matter could be addressed through simplified recruitment and better collaboration between the two countries.
Reports earlier said an OFW seeking to work in Taiwan has to shell around P200,000 in placement fee to recruiters, an amount that Fernandez decried as “criminal”.
No pandemic fees charged to OFW
Early November last year, the MECO Chairman took the initiative to communicate to Malacañang to ensure Taiwan’s requirements for the resumption of OFW deployment be addressed immediately as he also strongly recommended that the Philippine recruitment agencies shoulder all the pandemic fees.
The recommendation is in consonance with a January 2021 Memo Circular 1 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) explicitly providing that pandemic fees prior to deployment shall be borne by the agency, at no cost to the worker.
Fernandez said that Taiwan-bound OFW should not pay for pandemic requirements as these expenses should be shouldered by the concerned local recruitment agency.
Earlier, in a meeting sought by Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited To Taiwan, Inc. (PILMAT), the agencies through its board asked the MECO Chairman to allow them to charge the OFW with the pandemic fees.
Fernandez rejected outright PILMAT’s request and cautioned them that it would check all arriving OFW whether were coerced to pay for their pre-deployment expenses and that any violation of POEA MC 1 by the recruitment agencies would result in MECO moving to suspend the agency’s license, de-list them from TECO accreditation and ensure that appropriate administrative charges are filed.