MANILA, Philippines — Migrante International expressed concern Thursday that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s trip to South Korea on May 30 could lead to the renewal of an employment arrangement, which it deemed disadvantageous to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Philippine and South Korean officials have been discussing the possible renewal of the Employment Permit System (EPS), a government-to-government OFW deployment program criticized to be insufficient in protecting migrants’ rights in Korea.
“The recent renegotiation bodes ill for OFWs, especially because the Korean government, in response to the demand of Korean businessmen for reduced wages and fringe benefits for migrants, is insisting on the deletion of the provision for free food and accommodation for OFWs," warned Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.
Martinez explained that the Philippine government forged a memorandum of understanding with Korea under its EPS in August 2004. The MOU expired last year but was extended for at least three months from October 20, 2008.
As a result of the arrangement, the POEA stands as the only agency that could send Filipino workers to South Korea. The Philippines sent about 50,000 OFWs to Korea since August 2004.
Migrante observed that complaints of contract violations involving OFWs in Korea have been rampant despite the Philippine government’s direct involvement in recruiting the workers.
Martinez warned that the deletion of the provision for free food and accommodation for OFWs would only worsen the situation of the workers.
“Knowing how desperate President Arroyo is to sell OFWs as cheap labor to save her government and the economy, we are afraid that she will agree to this deletion, no matter if OFWs will further be exploited," he said.“Her signing of the renewal of the agreement with the deletion will surely be added to the long list of her sins against OFWs!"
Martinez revealed that many OFWs from Korea have complained that the POEA is making them pay for their own airfare, despite regulations clearly stating employers or recruitment agencies shall do so. Recent victims of illegal dismissals in Korea were allegedly not being attended to by the said agency at all.
Martinez said the EPS is not only detrimental to the interests of OFWs but also violates Republic Act 8042, or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos, which specifies that the state shall not promote labor exportation.
“Not only is the Arroyo government culpable under the law because of blatant export of labor, she (the President) is also liable for the worsening plight of OFWs in Korea. With all those complaints about contract violations, non-payment of airfare and neglect by the POEA, it is a shame that being recruited by our own government is no different from being recruited by unscrupulous recruiters," Martinez added. - GMANews.TV