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New ConGen to push for caregiver roles for OFWs

15 January 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

Newly-arrived Consul General Antonio A. Morales has pledged to work on getting the Hong Kong government to open caregiver positions to Filipino domestic workers as soon as possible.

Consul General Antonio A. Morales 
He also told The SUN during a meet-and-greet session at the Consulate on Jan. 7 that he intends to push for greater cooperation with Hong Kong authorities in addressing the illegal recruitment of Filipino workers here for third-country destinations like Russia.

ConGen Morales arrived only the day before, to formally assume the post as the Philippines’ top representative in Hong Kong.

Consul General Antonio A. Morales called on the Director of the Hong Kong Protocol Division, Mrs. Judy Li.
He told The SUN he would focus on these two main concerns when he gets to meet with Chief Executive Carrie Lam again.

He said he first met Mrs Lam when he accompanied Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on a courtesy call on Hong Kong’s top official last month.

During the meeting, the Chief Executive reportedly expressed appreciation for the important role that Filipino domestic workers play in Hong Kong’s society.

Morales said he would build on that goodwill to push for the creation of a new category of work as caregivers for overseas Filipino workers.

In Singapore where he was posted for three and a half years before moving to Hong Kong, he said there is already a caregiver post that is separate from that of a domestic worker.

He said he could use that as a reference in getting Hong Kong to speed up its plan to import caregivers amid looming concerns over its rapidly ageing population.

The Chief Executive first disclosed plans about opening a new category of work for caregivers during her maiden policy address on Oct 11 last year.

She said that Hong Kong would consider giving subsidized elderly-service units more flexibility on importing caregivers.

Later, the Hong Kong government also disclosed plans to launch in the first quarter of this year an 18-month trial program to equip 300 domestic workers already in the city with nursing skills.

At the same time, the Labor Department and Security Bureau are expected to set up an interdepartmental group for creating a mechanism to hire foreign caregivers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Southeast Asian countries.

On Jan. 11, ConGen Morales reiterated his commitment to upgrade the skills of Filipino domestic workers in remarks he made after swearing into office the new officers of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong.

After saying that there was nothing to be ashamed of about domestic work he added, “But that does not stop us from dreaming of greater things. That’s why our job is to ask our domestic workers to upgrade their skills, (by) going into caregiving, or thinking about doing business in the Philippines.”

Also part of his immediate plans, said Morales, is to meet with his counterparts at the Russian consulate, to ask help in addressing the worsening problem of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong being recruited for non-existent work in Russia.

The Philippine embassy in Moscow says there are about 5,000 Filipinos working illegally as domestic helpers in Russia, many of them recruited in Hong Kong.

Within the first few days of his taking over as consul general, Morales managed to meet with his Indonesian counterpart Tri Tharyat.

The consuls general reportedly exchanged views on a wide range of issues, and agreed to work together in promoting the interest of migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Morales also called on Hong Kong’s protocol chief, Judy Li.

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