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POEA tells Phl recruiters, you cannot make OFWs pay for training

24 November 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Olalia's letter to Palmiery says it is illegal for agencies to force OFWs to undergo training

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has categorically told recruitment agencies that they cannot compel overseas Filipino workers to pay for training prior to their deployment.

The statement is contained in a letter sent by POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia to agency representative Alfred Palmiery dated June 19 this year, which surfaced only now amid a dispute on what agencies are legally entitled to charge as fees to OFWs.

Palmiery had sought clarification after Labor Attache Melchor Dizon reportedly said in a zoom meeting earlier in the year that OFWs bound for Hong Kong must not be required to undergo training unless they fail in the Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) assessment.

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Palmiery, who heads Sharp (Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines), also took issue when The SUN reported on Nov 12 a remark made by Dizon during a Filipino community meeting that recruiters should not charge fees from OFWs they deploy abroad.

In a letter complaint he sent to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Palmiery raised the issue again, saying that if Dizon’s pronouncements were correctly reported, they could create confusion because they were “incomplete and partially inaccurate.”

In his letter responding to Palmiery’s request for clarification, Olalia cited certain provisions in the 2016 POEA Rules that expressly prohibit licensed recruitment agencies from requiring OFWs to undergo training, seminars or the like, unless the principal (or the employer) shoulder the cost of such training.

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“As can be interpreted from the above provisions of the POEA Rules, the employer (principal) or the licensed recruitment agency can validly require applicant OFWs to undergo training in a specially select training center or facility provided that it (principal or agency) pays for the cost of the training,” said Olalia.

He said OFWs shall pay the cost of training only if they chose the training center themselves.

Olalia went on to say that OFWs need not even undergo a formal training in a training center or facility because “competence in domestic work, which does not require specialized skills, may also be acquired through adequate experience.”

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While the workers may themselves choose to go to a training center to ensure they get the NCII,  “it remains a fact that formal training in a training centre is not a condition for HSWs to take and pass a Tesda skills assessment,” said Olalia.

The POEA head also reminded agencies that they cannot insist on training an OFW who is in possession of a valid NCII (National Certificate for Household Service Workers) issued by Tesda.

The NCII is valid for five years, said Olalia, and within this period, the employer or the agency cannot require the OFW to undergo another training unless the workers is willing, and the employer or agency shoulders the cost of the training.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang klwentong Dream Love

Olalia’s letter said that the act of compelling a worker to undergo training is one of those enumerated under Rule X, Section 76 of the POEA Rules as constituting illegal recruitment.

Palmiery (with mic) heads one of the biggest recruitment agency groups in the Philippines

In his most recent letter to Secretary Bello, Palmiery argued Dizon was wrong in saying that agencies in the Philippines could not charge any fees from the OFWs they deploy to Hong Kong.

He cited a list of fees and costs enumerated in the POEA Guidelines that are said to be chargeable to an OFW; however, the only relevant ones to FDWs bound for Hong Kong are the medical examination and the NCII certificate from Tesda.

In addition, the POEA Rules do not specifically state that the OFW should pay such fees to the agency, because in fact, they pay directly to the medical clinic where they were examined, and to Tesda.

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It is unclear if Bello has responded to Palmiery’s letter-complaint.

In the meantime, Palmiery appears to have asked Hong Kong agencies accredited with Polo to rally to his cause. He set up an online meeting with them tonight, on the eve of a separate talk that the HK agencies are scheduled to have with Labatt Dizon.

Thomas Chan, president of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, who joined the online meeting, had nothing to say last night about what was discussed.

He, however, confirmed receiving a copy of Administrator Olalia’s reply to Palmiery’s request for clarification.

Chan said the Hong Kong agency owners were to continue their meeting with Palmiery later tonight after dinner.

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