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Amid training dispute row, it's better if Tesda trained DHs, agency says

12 December 2020

 By Vir B. Lumicao

 

Metro Pinoy's Miranda also says POEA should have explained the policy shift to agencies 

An employment agency owner in Hong Kong says the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority should exclusively handle the training of Filipino domestic helpers before they go abroad to avoid their being exploited by greedy operators.

Josephine Miranda of Metro Pinoy Enterprise also said the controversy over mandatory training of outbound FDHs stemmed from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s failure to tell recruiters early on that the practice was illegal.

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As a result, confusion arose among employment agencies after Labor Attaché Melchor Dizon said last month that it is illegal to require FDWs to train before they can go abroad, said the agency owner whose office is in North Point.

Miranda said the agencies in the Philippines might not have been aware previously that training fees are illegal because POEA did not implement the 2016 rules, so everybody was charging from Php30,000 to a whopping Php100,000 for training.

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“Ang alam ko diyan kasi noon, kapag pumunta kayo sa Tesda, they will tell you to go to their training school or a Tesda-accredited training center,” Miranda said on Dec 11. (What I know is that before, if you went to Tesda, they will tell you to go to their training school or a Tesda-accredited training center). 

She recalled recruitment agencies began requiring domestic helper-applicants to go through training after Tesda made NC2 assessment and certification mandatory for various categories of workers going overseas.

Dizon speaking in Polo before an audience led by Consul General Raly Tejada

Dapat ang Tesda na mismo ang magti-training sa mga helpers para matiyak na maayos ang training at mabawasan ang bayarin nila,” Miranda said, adding that Tesda fees are low and some of its courses are even free. (Tesda should be conducting the training of the helpers so they can be assured of the quality, and the fees won’t be as much).

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The same view was expressed by Labatt Dizon during a meeting two weeks ago with Filipino community leaders who sought a dialogue with him on the training fee controversy.

Labatt Dizon said Tesda should do the training and in fact, it had already begun doing so for outbound OFWs.

Overpriced but insufficient or “useless” training offered by centers handpicked by Philippine agencies had led to thousands of OFWs complaining of huge debts they incurred even before they could start earning their first dollar.

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In Hong Kong, where there are about 210,000 Filipino domestic helpers as of the latest Imimigration figures, hundreds have come out to say they had been charged between $25,000 and $100,000 or more by agencies back home for the training fee alone.

In an earlier meeting with other Filcom leaders in November, Labatt Dizon said those fees are illegal since nowhere is it stated in the 2016 POEA Rules that domestic workers should undergo training.

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The labour chief apparently said essentially the same thing during a zoom meeting with agencies earlier in the year. He reportedly said that OFWs bound for Hong Kong must not be required to undergo training unless they failed the Tesda assessment.

Dizon’s statement was challenged by Alfredo Palmiery, a representative of recruitment agencies in the Philippines, who asked POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia for a clarification on the matter.

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In turn, Olalia categorically said in a letter to Palmiery dated June 19 this year that recruitment agencies cannot compel OFWs to pay for training before their deployment.

Olalia cited certain provisions in the POEA Rules that expressly prohibit licensed recruitment agencies from requiring OFWs to undergo training, seminars or the like, unless the principal (or the employer) shoulders the cost of such training.

“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.

Hong Kong agencies who are sympathetic to Palmiery’s cause, have in turn argued that the POEA stand unfairly burdens employers who mostly require helpers to undergo  training to upgrade their skills.

The agencies appeared to have gone as far as raising the issue in the Legislative Council’s Question Hour last Wednesday through LegCo Member Cheung Kwok-kwan.

Cheung said “the Philippine Government has recently issued instructions that migrant workers are not required to pay for the expenses on the training they receive and applications for documents, which are to be borne by their employers instead.”

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong replied the Consulate had stated that, according to the prevailing policy, all domestic helpers going to work overseas are required to obtain a skills competency certificate issued by (Tesda) to prove that they have completed a skills assessment.

“If employers or employment agencies request or arrange [the domestic helpers] to attend training, the relevant fees will be borne by the employers or EAs concerned,” Law cited the Philippine Consulate General as saying.

The Consulate also reportedly argued the arrangement had been in place since 2016 and was not a new policy.

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