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Deployment ban on OFWs takes effect Nov 13

12 November 2017

by Daisy CL Mandap

An estimated 75,000 newly hired overseas Filipino workers are expected to get stuck in the Philippines when a 15-day suspension on the processing of overseeas workers certificates take effect startting tomorrow, Nov.13.

The halt to OEC processing, which effectively results in a deploy,ent ban on all new hires, was ordered by Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello in a memo dated Nov. 9.

Bello said he took the move as a result of "persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities, including direct hires, and in order to protect the public from the pernicious activities of unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos deciding to work overseas".

Reports from Manila say Bello received reports of a syndicate operating out of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which fleeces Php250,000 from each new hire who wants to bypass the regular OEC processing.  These new hires are reportedly classified as returning workers so all they need to do is "renew" their OEC, allowing them to fly straight to their destination .

Among those likely to be affected by the 15-day ban are about 750 OFWs bound for Hong Kong. The Philippine Overseas Labor Office says about 1,500 new OFWs arrive in Hong Kong each monrh.

The unexpected move has been met with widespread criticism from affected sectors in both the Philippines and abroad.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre admits his office phones "have not stopped ringing" since news of Bello's ban reached affected sectors.
Asked what he tells the anxious callers,. Dela Torre said, "that it's just for 15 days."

Bello's order, however, states that the ban is "subject to extension as circumstances may require".

Labatt Dela Torre hastened to add that the OEC processing ban does not affect workers who are already in Hong Kong.

His assurance failed to appease migrant organizations, however.
In a hastily arranged protest action outside POLO's offices in Admiralty Centre on Nov. 12, Migrante-Hong Kong called the deployment ban "blatantly anti-OFW and anti-worker."

A statement they issued at the rally said Bello should punish corrupt officials and illegal re recruiters, not the OFWS."

The protesters also blasted the labor chief for his failure to abide by his long-standing promise of abolishing the OEC,

In Manila, some recruitment companies have also hit out at the suspension order, saying it was implemented without prior consultation with concerned sectors.

They also said the order affects not only OFWs, but also foreign employers, especially those in key industries like healthcare, construction and manufacturing, as their businesses could be adversely affected.
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