All hands on deck.
This is the message of Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei as it gave an assurance that no effort is spared to hasten the reopening of Taiwan’s doors to Filipino workers.
In the weekly MECOlive program on Facebook, Labor Attaché Cesar Chavez Jr. under the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taipei bared that his office has immediately forwarded to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for its scrutiny the requirements Taiwan has set for the return of OFWs.
“It’s Taiwan that imposes its own requirements to labor-sending countries. And because there are many such requirements, it has to be discussed with the stakeholders in Manila. That matter is not in the hands of either the POLO or MECO,” Chavez explained.
He cited that among the requirements set by Taiwan include several rounds of negative RT-PCR tests during the mandatory self-health monitoring and quarantine prior to deployment, designation of quarantine facilities and accreditation of RT-PCR testing centers in Manila.
Chavez revealed that immediately after the Taiwan government has given the list of requirements, MECO transmitted the same to Manila.
“And our Chairman/RR (Resident Representative) of MECO wrote to Malacañang, to the President, giving his recommendations. But it is not prudent to disclose the details now because the matter is still under negotiations,” he added.
So far, Taiwan has only agreed to the entry of Indonesian workers. Chavez said it’s probably because many caretakers in Taiwan—of which Indonesia is the biggest supplier—have opted to work in the factories during the onset of the pandemic, driving the present demand for Indonesian caretakers.
In addition, Chavez said the Taiwanese government likely factored in the current number of COVID-19 infections in the country of origin and Indonesia had fewer cases in the past weeks compared to the Philippines and other countries in the region like Thailand and Vietnam.
He stressed that it is the prerogative of the Taiwan government to determine which country they would prioritize in accepting foreign workers.
“But we are doing everything we can (to hasten the opening of doors to our workers). We know how difficult it is for those who are now stranded in the Philippines. However, there are still policy issues that must be settled first,” he explained.
Chavez also reminded OFWs traveling back to the Philippines to ensure they sign up for the repatriation tracker with the POLO so proper arrangements can be made before they arrive in the Philippines.
He pointed out facility-based quarantine is no longer required for fully-vaccinated OFWs returning to the Philippines, although they must provide a negative RT-PCR test taken at least 72 hours prior to their arrival.
Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated OFWs arriving are still required to undergo facility-based quarantine but may be allowed to go home if the result of their RT-PCR test taken on the 5th day of their arrival proved negative.
Chavez advised OFWs returning to the Philippines to file their Overseas Employment Certificate, which would ensure their employers would follow the terms and conditions of their contract and also allow the OFWs to avail of travel tax exemption.
Meanwhile, Ms. Fe Buitizon of OWWA in Taipei sought the understanding of OFWs who may be experiencing difficulty in using the OWWA app for the renewal of their membership, noting it is still undergoing an upgrade.
In the meantime, she said OFWs may renew their membership through the nearest OWWA office. Requirements include passport, ARC (Alien Resident Certificate), and verified job contract.
The fee for renewal of OWWA membership for this month is 688NT dollars and valid for 2 years, allowing the OFW to enjoy the corresponding benefits, including death or disability benefits, or scholarship for their children, among others.