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Polo HK to start conciliation of training fee claims this Sunday

08 January 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Palma (left), and Pelaez brave the cold to meet up with claimants in an Admiralty park

The first group of Filipino domestic workers seeking reimbursement of the training fee collected by their recruitment agencies in the Philippines has been summoned to a conciliation meeting with their respective Hong Kong agencies this Sunday, Jan 10.

Most of those who received the text message from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office were among about 30 FDWs who filed a refund claim on Nov 22, the first group to do so.

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They took action after Labor Attache Melchor Dizon told a group of Filipino community leaders during a meeting that recruitment agencies could not compel the overseas Filipino workers they deploy to undergo training.

That statement entitled practically all OFWs leaving the Philippines to claim back money they paid their agencies, which did not just require their recruits to undergo training, but also chose where they should go for it.

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The notification to the claimants mostly said they should go to Polo at 11:30am for the conciliation before either of the two assistant labor attaches, Angelica Sunga or Antonio Villafuerte.

Marites Palma, head of Social Justice for Migrant Workers and co-convenor of the Rise Against Government Exactions (Rage), says a total of 286 FDWs have filed refund claims against their agencies in the past seven Sundays.


She says the claims filed so far are for agency charges that range between Php30,000 to Php45,000.

Many more have expressed an intention to ask for a refund of the fees they paid their agencies, not just for training, but for other unauthorized fees, such as for video recording, and a second or third medical examination.

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However, some are disheartened because they do no have receipts to back up their claim. Palma and her fellow leaders who make up Rage have told them not to worry about this because it’s understandable that the agencies would not want to issue a receipt, knowing the charge is illegal.

If the workers have other proof of their payment, such as a text message from the agency, or photos, or corroborating statement by a fellow applicant, all these could be used to show how much money was collected from them.

A volunteer helps a fellow OFW fill out the claim form

But the claim has a time bar. According to Labatt Dizon, citing POEA Rules, only fees paid no later than three years ago can be claimed back through conciliation. He also said Polo needs at least a month to process the application, meaning that as of now, only those paid from February 2018 onwards could be claimed.

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During the meeting with Filcom leaders in November, Dizon said the POEA Guidelines merely require OFWs to secure the NCII (national certificate of competency) from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

They may opt to go for training if they want to have a better chance of passing the skills assessment, but they should decide on this on their own.

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An employer who requires the worker to undergo training before coming to Hong Kong should pay for it, said Dizon.

He also said that in line with the POEA Guidelines, everyone who has a valid NCII should not be required to undergo training and assessment all over again.

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Among those who were charged this illicit fee are two claimants who both worked in the Middle East previously. Jean Enceso who was charged Php35,000, worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Hong Kong. Cherry Anne Zerrudo worked in Qatar for three years, but was still made to pay Php37,000 for training.

Palma and fellow Rage leader Dolores Balladares-Pelaez have been meeting claimants in a park near United Centre building where Polo is located, to brief them claimants on the filing process, and why they should assert their right to claim back the illegal fee that was charged them.

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Another such meet-up is scheduled this coming Sunday at Harcourt Garden. Those who wish to get more information should check out the FB page, "Training Fee Refund - Hong Kong."

This is not the first time that OFWs in Hong Kong have filed agency fee refund claims, and not a few said they managed to get back at least part of the illicit fee collected from them.

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The latest rash of claims happened in November 2016, after former POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac said during a visit to Hong Kong that the training fee collected from each OFW should be no more than Php20,000.

But in this case, the statements of claim submitted by about 20 workers were all sent to POEA for action, as they were supposedly all directed against agencies based in the Philippines.

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This time around, Dizon said the claims would be forwarded to POEA only if the worker and the counterpart agency in Hong Kong fail to reach agreement.

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