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HK unrest shows need for workers to learn livelihood skills: Labatt dela Torre

02 July 2019

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre gives the certificate of completion to one of the graduates. Looking on are assistant labor attaches Antonio Villafuerte and Angelica Sunga, and trainors.

By Vir B. Lumicao    

Filipino domestic workers here should take advantage of free skills and livelihood trainings to prepare them to return home should the political uncertainty in Hong Kong worsen, and put their jobs in jeopardy.

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre gave this advice on Jun 16, as he spoke at the graduation of 52 massage therapy trainees at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai.


The graduates made up the 10th batch of the 10-week training course offered by the POLO and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Labatt Dela Torre, who was sweating and panting as he arrived from a Health-Wise mission outreach in Yuen Long, apologized for his delayed arrival for the graduation rites, where he was the guest speaker.

He spoke of how he had a hard time returning to the city by bus and train because of the heavy volume of black-shirted passengers going to Admiralty to join the anti-extradition protest.

He said at Admiralty, he had to find his way out of the station because all the exits were clogged with people, as was the platform for the line towards Wanchai. 

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In the end, he said, he had to exit in Admiralty by all means.

Labatt Dela Torre said the past few days’ protest action against the extradition bill being pushed by the Carrie Lam administration shows OFWs the importance of preparing for any eventuality.

He explained that the proposed legislation, if passed as scheduled last Jun 12, would have made it possible for Hong Kong to send accused people to places where it does not have an extradition treaty, such as Taiwan, Macau, and especially, China.

He asked the workers if they thought they would be affected by the proposed amendment to the law, and they answered “yes” in unison.

 “This points to the fragility of our stay here in Hong Kong. So, the more empowered you are to return to the Philippines with skills like massage therapy, the better for all of us, di ba?” Dela Torre said.

“Kasi hindi natin alam, eh. Who would have guessed na ganito ang mangyayari sa…ang bilis ha! Kailan nag-umpisa? Last Sunday, and then Wednesday, then ngayon. Talagang ang bilis ng mga pangyayari,” he said.

He said things seemed to have cooled because the government had backpedaled and suspended the hearing on the extradition bill indefinitely. But he warned that when the protests had died down, the government could push the bill again and “maaapektuhan na naman ang mga trabaho natin”.

He congratulated the graduates, many of whom, he said, were already raring to go home. He said he hopes they could put to good use the skills that they learned.

Labatt Dela Torre reminded them of a standing offer from Nuat Thai, a massage therapy company founded by an OFW, that offers its franchise free of charge to every group of 10 OFWs who could put up an outlet of the company.   

He also advised them to prepare for the certification assessment by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in December this year.

“Sana ay sa pagdating uli ng Tesda ay nandito pa kayo at maipasa ninyo ang NCII,” he said.

Also addressing the graduates were assistant labor attaches Antonio Villafuerte and Angelica Sunga, who both urged the workers to take advantage of the POLO’s skills training programs.

“Maganda ang ginagawa ninyo na ganyan na kung hindi kayo busy sa inyong mga gawain…
tingnan ninyo yung mga programang ibinibigay ng opisina para magagamit ninyo pag-uwi ninyo sa Pilipinas,” Villafuerte said.

Sunga, for her part, praised the graduates for their initiative to learn new skills instead of playing cards elsewhere on their days off.

“Mabuti iyan para pag-uwi ninyo sa Pilipinas magkaroon kayo ng ibang options. Sana pag-uwi nyo ay magtayo kayo ng sarili ninyong spa tulad ng iba,” she said.
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