Taiwan will allow the reentry of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) very soon, that is, after the celebration of the Lunar New Year and barring any new Covid-19 surge.
That’s what Taiwan labor attache lawyer Cesar Chavez Jr. said during a Facebook Live session.
This was followed by a meeting between Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez and Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor (MOL) Minister Hsu Ming-Chun concerning the matter.
During the meeting, Fernandez reiterated his request to assist Filipino workers “stranded” in the Philippines since May 2021 following the suspension of their return to Taiwan due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister Hsu, according to Fernandez, cited the Philippines as an important international partner in Taiwan’s economic development. Fernandez said Hsu has committed to a continued review of Taiwan’s labor rules to protect migrant workers’ rights, including health care.
The MECO chairman thanked the Taiwanese government for providing one of the best working environments for migrants, regardless of nationality. As proof, Fernandez pointed out the very low labor cases filed in Taiwan.
Discussed in the same meeting was the issue of pay parity between household workers (HHW) and factory workers (FW). Fernandez suggested raising the pay of HHW at par with FW, noting that HHW employed in Taiwan are generally well-educated and known for being hardworking and responsible housekeepers of their employer’s household.
Minister Hsu took note of the suggestion, saying she will discuss the matter with concerned officials.
Fernandez likewise expressed strong objection to exorbitant fees that Philippine recruitment agencies charge to OFW. He cited reports reaching his office that an OFW seeking to work in Taiwan has to shell around P200,000 in placement fees to recruiters – an amount Fernandez decried as “criminal”.
In November 2021, Fernandez recommended to Malacañang to ensure Taiwan’s requirements for hiring OFW be addressed immediately, specifically, for PH recruitment agencies to shoulder workers’ pandemic fees.
The recommendation is in consonance with a January 2021 Memo Circular No.1 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which stipulates that pandemic fees prior to a worker’s start of employment shall be shouldered by the agency, at no cost to the worker.
Earlier, in a meeting sought by PILMAT (Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited To Taiwan, Inc.), the agencies, through its board members, asked Fernandez to allow them to charge OFW with pandemic fees.
Fernandez rejected outright the request and cautioned PILMAT that MECO will ask all arriving OFW whether or not they were coerced to pay for their pre-employment expenses, and that any violation of POEA MC No. 001 by the recruitment agencies would result in MECO moving to suspend the agency’s license, de-list them from TECO accreditation, and ensure the filing of appropriate administrative charges.