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Training fee issue revives tales of OFWs driven by agencies to debt

23 November 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao  

HK-bound workers doing hands-on training in an elderly home in Manila

The oft-repeated story about overseas Filipino workers being neck-deep in debt even before they came to Hong Kong due to exorbitant employment agency fees has been resurrected.

This has re-emerged as domestic workers who were charged by agencies or their partner training centers huge sums are speaking out following Labor Attaché Melchor Dizon’s recent statement that they shouldn’t have been required to train in the first place.

On Sunday, an initial group of about 30 workers went to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to claim back money they said were charged them by their recruitment agencies in the Philippines. 

 

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One worker, Judy (not her real name), who arrived in June this year for her first job in Hong Kong, said she had to take out a Php99,000 loan from a lending company in Manila at an interest rate of 4%, money that was all paid to the agency before she could fly out.   

She said she had to pay Php16,500, or $2,500 per month for a total of six months, to her recruiter in Manila via online payment application, Alipay. She finished her payment this month.

“Wala, for six months ko tiniis…Php99,000 hindi ko man lang natikman,” Judy said regretfully. She said her proofs are receipts of her monthly remittances to the lending company.

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On top of this, Judy said that a day before the flight, she and her batchmates were made to pay $10,000 each by her agency, for which no receipt was given. They were made to write a statement that they did not pay the agency a single peso.

“We couldn’t get evidence kasi bawal magdala ng phone sa office,” the worker said, who said she hoped the agency and its staff will reap karma for ripping off workers.

A receipt for the money Judy paid a lending company in the Phl, which all went to her recruiter


Another helper, Lai Siarot, who came to Hong Kong on Nov 28 last year, said she paid her agency Php60,000 that she borrowed partly from other people. She said filled the shortfall with her own money and also spent a lot for her food and traveling expenses.

“Hindi ako umutang sa lending, sa tao po ako umutang (I didn’t borrow from a lending company, I borrowed from people),” said the worker from Pangasinan.

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Siarot said she had worked in Hong Kong previously but went home and stayed five years there before applying for another job here.

She said she paid up her debt in 2019. Asked whether she would file for a refund, she was pessimistic: “Baka po masayang lang and pagod at wala din maibalik, (The effort might go to waste and there might be no refund)” she said.

Bernadette (not her real name said the first time she left Manila, she spent more than Php80,000. Then on her second departure, she was required to train again at a cost of Php20,000 even if she had NCII, or the required certificate of competency, issued by Tesda.

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She said her recruitment agency told her she had to go to training again even if she had a valid NCII and was a returnee from Hong Kong.

“Sabi ng agency, ‘training uli ha, di ka makakaalis kung di ka mag-training uli,” she said, notwithstanding your being an NCII holder and a former Hong Kong worker.

Another FDW who commented in a Facebook post of The SUN’s article on Labatt Dizon’s remarks claimed she paid $70,000 – Php30,000 for training and Php40,000 for processing, aside from the Php3,500 medical.

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Even the four helpers who were treated in hospitals here after testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival from Manila and sent home afterwards by the Immigration Department, paid around Php30,000 in training fee in addition to other charges.

Ermalyn Deno, the first to be sent back home after treatment, says she paid Php31,000 to her agency for her training back in the Philippines. But this was jacked up by Php7,750 because she was made to undergo a medical examination three times for unclear reasons.

As she was from Palawan, she also had to incur a lot of expenses for board and lodging as she was made to go to Manila for the training that it turns out now, was not even necessary.

C.A., the third would-be helper to be removed from Hong Kong after her hospital treatment, said she had spent Php100,000 in borrowed money to come here.

The 35-year-old mother of four said Php45,000 of what she borrowed went to pay fees charged by her agency in Manila, Placewell International Services, including Php5,980 for the nucleic acid test, or swab test, at the Lung Center in Quezon City.

Meanwhile, at least two FDHs asked if they could still claim a refund of the more than Php100,000 they paid their recruitment agencies several years back. One said she came here in 2011, and the other, in 2012.

Rochelle echoed the question, saying she borrowed part of the huge placement and training fees she paid her agency back in 2012. Unlike the others, she said she got the loan from a relative at 10% interest, which took her several months to repay. But like most of them, she was not issued any receipt for any of her payments.

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