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Deployment ban on new OFWs lifted

05 December 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap 
About 1,200 first-time OFWs bound for HK were stranded in the Philippines

The 15-day suspension of the issuance of overseas employment certificates to first-time overseas Filipino workers which effectively resulted in a deployment ban from the Philippines, ended as scheduled on Dec. 1.

But it was only yesterday, Dec. 4, that Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced the end of the OEC suspension, adding “no extensions have been imposed”.

About 1,200 OFWs bound for Hong Kong were among an estimated 75,000 workers affected by the OEC suspension.

Every OFW departing from the Philippines for the first time is required to obtain the OEC, so the suspension also meant a halt in deployment.

Media reps flocked to POLO on Dec. 6
amid false reports the ban would be extended
The delay in releasing the advisory sparked off rumors of an extension, prompting reporters from various media organizations to flock to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong early yesterday.

In an apparent bid to quell the rumors, Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre released the advisory within the day.

But when asked if he had to deal with irate employers in the wake of the deployment ban, he said: “I think they voiced their rage to the Labor Department and their respective agencies.”

He also said the number of OFWs arriving in Hong Kong on a daily basis from the time the suspension order was lifted “will depend on how fast POEA is crunching away at the backlog.”

Earlier he predicted there would be no extension to the ban because of the protests that came from various affected sectors.

“Ang daming nagreklamo, so malamang hindi na ma-extend,” Labatt dela Torre said.

In imposing the suspension order on Nov. 17, Bello said it was meant to crack down on a human trafficking syndicate operating out of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

His subsequent advisory said a fact-finding team “will carry on its work at the POEA to uncover the culpable parties who are responsible for the illegal recruitment activities which have victimized several of our applicants for  overseas employment.”

In response to Bello’s order, the Hong Kong government decided to grant up to two weeks’ extension to the work contracts of foreign domestic workers which are expiring on or before Dec 31.

This so-called flexibility arrangement was meant to ease the impact on local families if the new domestic workers they were hiring from the Philippines could not arrive before the expiration of their contracts with their existing helpers.

A government spokesman also said Hong Kong would ask the Philippine Government for an exemption to the suspension order so Filipino domestic workers bound for the city could arrive without delay.

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