Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday expressed optimism that more Filipinos would be allowed to work in South Korea under the government-to-government Employment Permit System as she said the Philippines, through the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, has set in motion several measures to reduce the number of overstaying Filipino workers in that country and to fast-track processing of EPS workers’ documents, including the “introduction period”.
“I have high hopes that our quota of workers for South Korea will increase because our EPS performance has been consistently good,” Baldoz said during a meeting she held with Ambassador Kim Jae Shin of the Republic of South Korea.
Ambassador Kim, who is newly assigned to the Philippines, paid the Secretary a call the other day. He assured the Secretary he will convey her wish of an increased quota to his government in Seoul, particularly to the Ministry of Labor.
Baldoz, who pioneered the PH-Korea EPS in 2004 when she was still POEA administrator, said the PH-Korea EPS memorandum of agreement, which is valid for two years, is up for renewal and the Philippines has started early preparation for the negotiations in April.
“The Philippines is scheduled to renew its EPS with South Korea on April of this year. Since 2004, the Philippines and Korea have renewed the EPS agreement four times,” said Baldoz.
She said South Korea considers in the renewal of the EPS factors such as labor market trends, level of labor shortages, and economic conditions.
The Philippines is one of the original six countries that signed in April 2004 the EPS memorandum of agreement with South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor.
The Korean government adopted the EPS to introduce non-professional foreign workers in its small and medium enterprise sector under a transparent and efficient process of selecting, sending, and receiving foreign workers through a government-to-government arrangement.
“The EPS has become a global model for ethical, efficient, and transparent recruitment that has benefited South Korea’s SMEs and its partner-countries and their workers. For the Philippines, Filipino workers have gained a lot of skills and competencies through the EPS. Many have improved their lives and secured their future,” Baldoz said.
As of 27 January 2016, a total of 45,619 OFWs have been deployed to South Korea under the EPS in 491 batches since 2004. Of this number, 44,313 workers sent in 438 were regular EPS workers, while 1,306 workers sent in 53 batches were sincere workers, or those who returned to the same employer since 2002.
According to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Korea, Filipino EPS workers are in 6, 692 workplaces in 17 provinces. EPS workers were deployed in the manufacturing, construction, and agriculture sectors. Other employment-based visa holders are professors (89); researchers (32); arts and performance (3,490); professional employment (26); and special occupations (652).
In 2015, the Philippines ranked 11th among 15 sending countries in terms of the “introduction period”, or the length of time the sending agency is able to process the papers of the EPS worker starting from the time the worker signs the employment contract until the worker’s departure to Korea.
Baldoz said to improve the ranking of the Philippines for 2016, POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac has committed to undertake several measures to decrease the number of overstaying Filipino workers.
He said that measures include the conduct of a small Preliminary Language and Culture Training for EPS workers which will be handled by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; intensification of the POEA’s information campaign during the EPS-Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) registration, PEOS, and PDOS on expenses to be incurred once the labor contract is sent to HRD Korea.
Cacdac also said that POEA is exploring the possibility of filing the visa applications of EPS workers electronically to facilitate efficient and faster issuance of their working visas.
“This is part of the DOLE’s and POEA’s thrusts to streamline documentary procedures to facilitate the deployment of OFWs,” said Cacdac, adding that the POEA, as one of the ISO-certified attached agencies of the Department, is committed to effectively and efficiently deliver quality services to its clients.