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PH eyes deal on sending OFWs to China by next year

17 December 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sees China’s “Belt and Road” initiative as an opportunity to supply the Chinese mainland with Filipino talent, such as professionals, including English teachers.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano
The foreign secretary, who was a guest at a “Belt and Road” trade fair at Chater garden on Dec 1, said he is hoping for a breakthrough in moves to secure an agreement by the end of the first quarter of 2018 on exporting Filipino workers to China.

“The sooner any agreement that would give the Filipinos legal protection is good, and although they are treating the Filipinos very well, to be staying in a country legally and having a work contract is more desirable,” Cayetano told The SUN.

“So, we’re hoping to have a breakthrough in the first quarter next year because of the relationship getting better and better and many cooperation agreements going,” he said.

But he said the government is not only focusing on the employment, “but also on how to better the lives, especially through education, of our workers abroad, so that they will have a career path, a ladder where they can improve their situation as the years go by”.

He said China, especially Beijing, has programs for expatriates and workers, but Filipino workers are not covered as they do not have job contracts there.

“It’s a matter of getting the agreement and seeing which programs will be available to them,” he said.

He said China is very keen to hire English teachers, such that its foreign minister had followed up talks about getting the teachers from the Philippines.

“It’s even their foreign minister who followed up and their Belt & Road initiative will be a very big idea that will affect the world and especially our region, and even the Chinese themselves have said that they not only need the cooperation, collaboration, but they will need the best talents from all over the world, and they recognize Filipino talent,” he said.

Cayetano said the Philippines would need to do a balancing act because it sends workers out to earn for their families and help the economy, but it also have to keep the best people at home “so we can develop and we don’t want to see people separating from their families”.

He said the ideal setup is one like in the US, where Filipino nurses can bring their spouses who can’t work, for a year. He said this is better than separating families.

In a press briefing in Macau, Cayetano said he had a “short and fruitful meeting” with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, partly about the OEC suspension that effectively stopped the deployment of all new overseas Filipino workers from Manila. But the issue became moot when Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III lifted the 15-day suspension as scheduled on Dec. 1.

Cayetano said his talk with the CE covered the human trafficking issue, but only in relation to the OEC. But he said the Philippine government is quietly talking with countries which are take-off points for traffickers like Hong Kong.

Whether it is illegal recruitment, white slavery or all other types of trafficking, this has to be addressed, he said. “It’s only when we consider it as a transnational crime, meaning it is not only a problem on one side, on the Philippine side, but it’s a problem among nations, can we truly address it,” he said.

“Both with Hong Kong and China, we are also stepping up our intelligence so that we can identify more (culprits), especially illegal recruiters or the people who are doing the trafficking,” Cayetano said.

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