Responsive Ad Slot




Buhay Pinay



Philippine News

Join us at Facebook!

Migrants lash out at Polo for inaction on training fee refund

27 February 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Fewer workers are signing up for refund claims because of the POEA referral

Several Filipino migrant groups are set to stage an online protest from 1pm to 2pm this Sunday, Feb 28, accusing the Philippine Overseas Labor Office of reneging on its duty to help OFWs seeking a refund of illegal fees collected from them by recruitment agencies in the Philippines.

The groups, led by United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) are particularly angry that Polo has been forwarding claims to the Philippine Overseas Administration Office in Manila without even informing the concerned workers. 

This was despite an agreement reached by Filipino community leaders with Labor Attache Melchor Dizon on Dec 6 last year, that all claims will be heard in Polo, with the Hong Kong counterpart of the Philippine agencies acting as respondent.


It is only when no settlement is reached during a conciliation with the Hong Kong agency that the case is supposed to be forwarded to POEA for further action.

“This is causing distress and anxiety to many migrant domestic workers whose hard-earned money unscrupulously taken by agencies could have gone to their families or used to buy necessities here in Hong Kong,” said a statement issued by Unifil.

POEA letter from telling HK claimants their cases have been referred to them

How would they be able to follow up on their cases? They have to assign a member of the family or a friend to represent them in their cases in the Philippines. But they cannot be represented, as they do not have time to do it. This is why they filed their cases here so that they will be able to see it through. This is a source of consternation and major disappointment to overly-burdened OFWs.”

News of the instant referral of cases to POEA has flooded a Facebook page, Training Fee Refund Hong Kong, where claimants share posts about their concerns and experiences dealing with Polo.

Pindutin para sa detalye!

Nearly all of those who shared receiving notices of hearings from POEA said they filed their claims with Polo, and were not consulted or advised that their cases would be referred to Manila directly.

The news has turned off many would-be claimants from pursuing their cases. On Sunday last week, a sign-up desk set up by Unifil-Migrante on Chater Road recorded just about 20 Filipino migrant workers filling up forms to file claims. This was less than half of the number recorded in previous Sundays.

According to Unifil chairperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, about 2,000 FMWs have already filed claims, but only a handful had been called to Polo for a conciliation meeting with their Hong Kong agencies.

Pindutin para sa detalye

And among those who managed to settle their claim with their agencies, only a fraction of what they paid in illegal fees to their recruitment agencies in the Philippines had been given back to them. Many said they were given only the equivalent of Php5,000, after paying between Php30,000 to Php50,000 to their Philippine recruiter.

Only one has reported being given back Php10,000 of the Php31,000 she paid – and that was only because she still had an existing NC2 certificate from Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), meaning she should have been exempted from undergoing training all over again in the first place.

The measly settlement has prompted a call from Marites Palma of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, one of those pushing for the refund, to urge claimants not to accept such a small amount from their Hong Kong agencies. 

Training fee claimants have been crowding Polo on Sundays

Another leader of the refund campaign, Eman Villanueva of Bayan Muna Hong Kong and Macau, told Hong Kong-based claimants not to give in to suggestions that they should file their cases directly with POEA. 


Villanueva said workers will lose out in such a case because they will have to file individual claims, weakening the campaign for agencies to be held accountable for charging illegal fees. He also said it would be difficult for a Hong Kong-based worker to pursue a claim in the Philippines as the complainant must personally appear, or designate a representative, during hearings before the POEA.

Further, he said: “Mismong si Labatt Dizon ang nagsabi na tatanggapin ang filing ng claims at gagawin ang mediation sa POLO. Kung hindi nya ito tutuparin at basta na lamang ipo-forward ang mga claims sa POEA, dapat singilin at papanagutin si Labatt Dizon.”

(Labatt Dizon himself said Polo would accept claims and act as mediator. If he won’t abide by this, and just forward the claims to POEA, we should hold Labatt Dizon accountable).

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

There are also a lot of organizations, institutions and individuals helping claimants in Hong Kong, so it is much easier for cases to be resolved here, Villanueva added.

While the turn of events has dismayed most of those pursuing claims in Hong Kong, this is not the first time Polo had washed its hands off the illegal collection of fees by recruitment agencies, said Unifil-Migrante. In 2013, a similar thing happened, when thousands of illegal fee claims were all passed on to POEA, said the group.

The deluge in claims started on Nov 22 last year, after Dizon said during a meeting with a group of community leaders at the Consulate that Filipino workers deployed abroad should not be compelled to attend training, and pay for it. Employers who require training should pay for its cost, he said.

This was followed by a meeting with another group led by Balladares-Pelaez where Dizon said 170 OFWs had already filed claims, which Polo would hear through conciliation meetings between the workers and their agencies. 

It was only if conciliation had failed that the case would be endorsed to POEA for further action, he said. 

Dizon also said claims for agency fees paid within the past three years could be filed with Polo for conciliation. But an extra month allowance should be given for Polo to schedule the conciliation, and then forward to POEA within the required period if no settlement is reached.

Several groups have been helping workers pursue refund claims

In its statement, Unifil also hit out at Polo for allegedly being selective in handing out the Dole Akap financial assistance of US$100 to workers whose work has been adversely affected by the pandemic, and not extending the application period long enough for all qualified recipients to file a claim.

Polo was also criticized for being selective in accepting workers to its shelter, and in not extending help to those who recently arrived in Hong Kong and are under hotel quarantine.

“They are actually performing subpar to non-government institutions (which) have their own shelters here in Hong Kong and (are) helping as many people as they can. It has obviously delegated the task to these institutions when it should be the government's responsibility to shelter OFWs,” said the Unifil statement.

“Especially during the pandemic, there are at least a hundred migrant domestic workers seeking shelter every month in Hong Kong.”


Don't Miss