Workers welcome POEA retreat

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 02/17/2008
MANILA, Philippines — Migrant workers on Saturday welcomed the indefinite suspension of new government guidelines on direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers.

The leftist group Migrante International attributed to “OFW Power” the indefinite suspension by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s of its Memorandum Circular No. 4 (MC-04), which, among others, required foreign employers to post up to $8,000 in repatriation and performance bonds for each Filipino worker they hired.

“This is the result of the united protest of OFWs around the world and that of our families in the Philippines. We sustained the campaign and were not deceived by the promise of protection of MC-04 nor of the tricky exemption,” said Samahan Laban sa Katiwalian ng mga Recruitment Agencies at Patakarang MC-04, a coalition against the POEA rule.

“Filipino migrant workers claim victory over the POEA’s MC-04. This is the result of the united protest of OFWs around the world and that of our families in the Philippines,” said Dolores Balladares, chair of Migrante’s Hong Kong chapter, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil).

In Manila, the Center for Migrant Advocacy said it hoped the government had “learned its lesson” in not consulting the OFW sector before imposing a “burdensome” regulation such as MC-04.

“MC-04 did not look good to OFWs not only because of its being tedious, drastic and costly but also it seemed to them that the government does not want to have the responsibility of bailing out OFWs in distress,” CMA executive director Ellene Sana told the Inquirer.

Sana said the OFW groups would be willing to sit down with the POEA to craft regulations that would “really” extend protection to OFWs, particularly the directly-hired.

“The process of making rules should be transparent and participatory. If we keep on promoting a labor-export policy, we should be ready for distressed migrants. So the government must touch base with OFW communities and hear from them how their welfare may be best protected,” she said.

POEA suspended the guidelines on Feb. 14, “until further orders,” less than a month after they were implemented. In suspending the guidelines, the POEA cited President Macapagal-Arroyo’s directives to relax rules on hiring white-collar OFWs and the need to deliberate further on the matter.