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Philippine labor secretary quashes talks about China job for Pinoy domestic workers

02 August 2017

(EXCLUSIVE)

By Daisy CL Mandap
Labor Secretary Bello says no talks held
on jobs for Filipino domestic workers in China
Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has denied being in talks with Chinese officials about a supposed plan to hire Filipino domestic workers in China for as much as Php100,000.
“I haven’t talked to anyone from China, much less agreed to meet with anyone next month on this,” said Secretary Bello in a phone interview with The SUN.
He said he was not aware of anyone from the Chinese embassy in the Philippines visiting his Undersecretary, Dominador Say, and disclosing any such plan. Neither has Bello been told of a plan for a follow-up meeting next month.
“How could there be a follow-up meeting when there was no initial meeting in the first place?”, Bello said. 
Ambassador Sto Romano says there
signs China wants to let OFWs in 
In Beijing, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sto. Romana said there had been indications that China plans to open its door to Filipino domestic workers. However, he said he was not privy to what Undersecretary Say disclosed to various newspapers in Manila, including the widely circulating Philippine Star.
“I am not in a position to confirm this report in the Philippine Star, talks are still exploratory at this stage, but there are indications that Chinese authorities are interested in opening the door somewhat to Pinoy household service workers (HSW). Shanghai & Guangzhou authorities have recently announced an experiment to grant work visas to Pinoy HSWs, these are pilot projects that could pave the way to more work visas for Pinoy,” said Ambassador Sto. Romana.
However, he said the Department of Labor and Employment may have more information on the matter as it is the lead agency on the Philippine side.
Labor Undersecretary Say prompted the comments after he told reporters in Manila earlier in the week that a delegation from the Chinese embassy had approached him about Beijing’s supposed plan to open its doors to Philippine domestic workers.
The Philippine Star quoted Say as saying that the salary to be given was Php100,000 (US$1,980), but he later told the South China Morning Post that the reported salary offer was not accurate.
However, he stuck to his original statement that he discussed the plan with Chinese embassy officials.
Say also said that China wants to hire 100,000 foreign domestic workers, but not all would come from the Philippines. Further, he said the scheme will be put in place in five major Chinese cities, including the capital, Beijing, and Shanghai.
But his statements were immediately dismissed by the acting head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), further causing confusion.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Undersecretary Bernardo Olalia said it was not true that there were 100,000 jobs available for Filipino domestic workers in China. The only jobs there now are reportedly only for teachers and call center agents.
"Lahat ng klase ng trabaho nasa website [ng POEA], kung wala, that job is nonexistent," Olalia was quoted as saying.
The conflicting statements from his two undersecretaries have prompted Secretary Bello to call for a meeting tomorrow, Aug. 3, to try and sort out the issue.
“I don’t know why my two undersecretaries are saying two different things,” he said.
But he reiterated that what was clear was that he had not met with anyone from the Chinese government on the reported plan.
Say’s statements caused a stir in Hong Kong, with many domestic workers saying on social media that if the reported salary was true, they would prefer working on the mainland instead.
Villanueva says OFWs
will go where pay is better
Several migrant workers have also started asking how they could apply for the China jobs, completely disregarding reports that the scheme, even if true, was still in the drawing board. 
Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) said it was just natural for Filipino workers, being economic migrants, to go where the pay is better.
“It just shows that the salaries of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are no longer competitive,” said Villanueva. “Why else would our workers choose to go to a place where the labor laws are not as defined as in Hong Kong?"
He also said that sending more Filipino workers abroad was not desirable, as it shows the Philippines is not sincere about its promise to curb its labor export policy.
The Philippines has no bilateral labor agreement with China, although up to 200,000 Filipinos are believed to be working on the mainland, many as domestic helpers. Most of the workers are there as tourists, but some have managed to secure business visas which allow them a longer stay.
Most domestic workers are known to get between 6,000 and 7,000 yuan a month, which is far higher than the minimum allowable wage of HK$4,310 a month paid to their counterparts in Hong Kong.
Recently, Guangdong province and Shanghai have reportedly allowed foreigners to hire domestic workers from overseas, but it is not clear how many Filipinos have been hired under this scheme.


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