Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said that the Philippines is emerging to be among the top choice for sourcing teachers for the US public school system.

Sto. Tomas said the trend was observed to have started in 2002, citing a recent report from Labor Attache Arturo Sodusta of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Washington D.C.

“The Philippines continues to lead in terms of providing the US of its requirements for medical workers such as registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists,” Sto. Tomas said. But the range of skills required is also diversifying when information and technology specialists were being hired in the late 1990s, she added.

The report said that the teachers were added to the professional category beginning 2002 and is seen to be a promising employment opportunity in the US.

Buoyed up by this development, Sodusta informed Sto. Tomas that the POLO in Washington is strengthening its linkages with US-based staffing agencies that recruit Filipino workers.

“They are working to address the consequences of a recent pronouncement of the US government to prioritze the clearing out of the backlog of pending green card petitions for individuals already in the US with temporary visas and those who have been waiting approval for permanent residence status for themselves and their families,” Sto. Tomas said. She noted that this policy could result in delays it the processing of green card applications of Filipino registered nurses.

Sto. Tomas however cautioned those aspiring to get placements for jobs in the US to be wary of illegal recruiters.

She noted that during the past six months, a growing number of teachers and nurses have been victimized by unscrupulous recruiters who have demanded huge sums as down payments.

She said that the DOLE is always prepared to assist overseas job applicants in verifying employment documents. “The Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Washington D.C., for example, verified the employment documents of 188 would-be OFWs to ensure the existence of their employers and protect them from exploitation,” she cited. In the same manner, the office also verified 53 would-be principals or employers based in the US to allow them to recruit workers from the Philippines.

Shortly before Christmas last year, agents of the Presidential Anti-Illegal Recruitment Task Force arrested two recruiters, Sesina Tabuzo and Perla dela Cruz, based on complaints filed by seven nurses from whom they collected a total of P765,000.

Hoping to get placements in the United States, the nurses shelled out P120,000 to P125,000 each. The task force, upon investigation, discovered that the two recruiters were not licensed by the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Last October alone, 41 workers aspiring to get placements in the US eked out a total of P4.5 million to suspected illegal recruiters.

The presidential task force also arrested a certain Julia Lontoc after collecting close to P1 million from nine applicants hoping to work as caregivers in the United States. The nine applicants gave Lontoc amounts ranging from a low of P15,000 to a high of P360,000.

A member of the Philippine National Police, PSINSP Ferdinand Garcia victimized 19 teachers who were hoping to be hired in the US and collected from them a total of over P1.6 million. The teachers gave Garcia amounts ranging from a low of P24,000 to as much as P125,000. Two even paid him in dollars – one at $1,300 and the other, $3,500.

Sto. Tomas warned that cunning groups and individuals will take advantage of real job opportunities in the US to lure hopeful applicants to pay out huge amounts for promises of deployment to the said country. She said that it would be better to always validate overseas job openings with the DOLE.

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