Overriding concern is OFW protection
At dialogue, Baldoz and overseas employment stakeholders agree on constant tripartite dialogue to pursue continuing protection of OFWs
Some 32 leader-representatives of various organizations met yesterday at the DOLE with Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac to discuss overseas employment issues.
The group included representatives of agencies calling for the ouster of Secretary Baldoz and Administrator Cacdac and have threatened to stage a rally on Monday due to alleged arbitrary issuance of orders of preventive suspension and cancellations by the POEA, and over issues concerning the renewal of licenses.
Participants came out of the meeting-dialogue with specific recommendations that both parties agreed will address those concerns.
“This is the beauty of bringing out issues in the open through frank and honest dialogue. It clears the air of any doubt and suspicion over issues that could only recur, or worsen if we don’t engage each other in person-to-person communication,” said Baldoz.
Baldoz emphasized the standards of protection that should be afforded to OFWs, specifically household service workers, throughout the migration process. She pointed out the need to establish benchmarked standards and protocols beginning with proper methods of recruitment of workers, accreditation of only legally-compliant foreign principals and employers, proper conduct of medical examinations, and training of domestic workers (in cooperation with DOH and TESDA), as well as welfare assistance and monitoring of domestic workers.
“Just as important shall be education programs through online PEOS, alongside standards on the OWWA-conducted PDOS, POLO-conducted PAOS, and the recruitment and selection of HSWs for which she urged the sector to develop, in convergence with the DOLE,” Baldoz said, saying even the destination country-members of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue already agree to the implementation of the PEOS, PDOS, and the PAOS.
Baldoz, who has defended Administrator Cacdac, called for the dialogue so that “she will personally be apprised” of the issues being hurled against him.
“My aim of calling for this dialogue even on a holiday is to look for solutions. Ano ba talaga ang mga isyu at ano ang puwedeng gawin agad?,” she said at the start of the dialogue.
Saying that the POEA is mandated by law to implement policies, rules, and regulations that will ensure the protection of OFWs, Baldoz reiterated from the start that she is constant in her adherence to the State policy that the possession of skills is still the best form of protection and, therefore, reminded the representatives that the DOLE and the POEA continue—and push for—the implementation of various reforms, specifically in the deployment of household service workers.
“We are not doing away with, but even strengthening, the Household Service Worker Reform package which we started in 2006. We are tightening more our implementation of the reform and will consult with the TESDA on the inclusion of minimum work experience sufficient for HSWs to be assessed and certified for National Certificate II. This is because HSWs are vulnerable workers although they have already been classified as part of the formal sector under ILO Convention 189 and the Kasambahay Law which the Philippines is assiduously implementing as part of its international commitment and obligation,” she said.
On the alleged absence of due process in the issuance of orders of preventive suspension and cancellation of licenses, Administrator Cacdac said all cases are subject to formal hearing and the POEA always observes due process.
The agreement was to give subject agencies ample time to be heard, refute allegations, and present evidence. “The POEA should conduct hearings fast,” Baldoz said, recalling that during her time as POEA administrator, agencies were allowed to undergo processing of their workers through a pipeline, but this has been done away with in R.A. 10022.
On the issue whether the POEA requires the execution of an undertaking by licensed recruitment agencies renewing their licenses to gradually reduce the ratio of deployment to “60 percent skilled”, Baldoz clarified there is no such requirement.
“There is even no ban on the deployment of HSWs, although I am tempted to do an Indonesia on this,” she said, referring to the ban on the deployment of HSWs being implemented by Indonesia President Widodo.
“There is not even a deliberate attempt to decrease deployment. What we have is a highly-selective deployment policy for HSWs which our POLOs strictly implement. This means evaluating very thoroughly the job orders for HSWs and approving only those for compliant foreign placement agencies (FPAs), compliant licensed Philippine recruitment agencies (PRAs), and compliant employers,” she said, adding:
“This is in pursuit of President Aquino III’s directive to transform Philippine embassies, consulates, POLOs, and all other stakeholders in the overseas recruitment sector into becoming centers of care and excellence.”
“In fact, I think we can all agree that following this directive, we can expand this to include the TESDA, which should be a center for care and excellence with regard its training, assessment, and certification; the training and assessment centers, which should become centers of care and excellence for training and certification of our OFWs; the medical clinics, which should likewise be centers for care and excellence for medical testing, so that OFWs who are deemed fit for work in the Philippines will also be fit for work abroad; and you, the recruitment agencies, which should be centers for care and excellence for the workers you recruit and deploy,” Baldoz explained.
On the issue of labor inspection, Baldoz explained that the new Labor Laws Compliance System which is being implemented for the first time to include licensed recruitment agencies is very developmental, the reason why she has done away with the overly regulatory enforcement approach.
The new LLCs, she said, allows for the correction of deficiencies, and once there is already an agreed joint plan of corrective action, this should not be a bar to the renewal of a license. “We help you to correct your deficiencies for free,” she emphasized.
Further on the alleged delay in the renewal of licenses, the participants in the dialogue arrived at an agreement that if the main office of a PRA is deemed compliant, all that it has to do is to communicate this to its branches in the region so that the DOLE or POEA regional offices need only to validate the compliance, particularly since branches of licensed recruitment agencies don’t have systems or processes different from their principal offices’.
“This is what we have done in the banking sector,” Baldoz said, and directed Administrator Cacdac to see to it that this is implemented.
The following organizations were represented in the dialogue: Filipino Migrant Workers; Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (PILMAT); Australia and New Zealand Association of Employment Providers of the Philippines Inc. (ANZAEPP); Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI); Association of Philippine Licensed Agencies for Technical Internship Program (APLATIP); Confederation of Licensed Agencies Deploying Service Workers (CLADS); Federated Associations of Manpower Exporters Inc. (FEDAMANEX); Association of Service Professionals in Overseas Employment (ASPROE); and several licensed agencies.
Also present in the dialogue were DOLE Undersecretary Reydeluz Conferido, Assistant Secretary Katherine Brimon, POEA Deputy Administrators Amy Reyes and Jesus Gabriel Domingo, POEA Director for Pre-Employment Nini Llanto, POEA Director for Licensing and Regulation Robert Larga; Bureau of Working Conditions Director Catherine L. Parado, Legal Service Director Romeo Montefalco, Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns Director Ahmma Charisma Satumba, and Administrative Director Cristina Quismundo.