Filipino domestic helpers (DH) in Hong Kong are set to appeal the decision of the Hong Kong High Court dismissing their petition for judicial review on the levy and cut on their wages, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said today.

Citing a report by Hong Kong Acting Labor Attache Wilfreda Misterio, Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas said the petitioners are keen to file an appeal, as they have been given 28 days to do so. Misterio added the Hong Kong government will continue to provide legal aid to the petitioners.

Earlier, the Court has dismissed the petition filed by five DHs, four Filipinos and one Indonesian, against respondents Chief Executive in Council, Director of the HK Immigration and the Employees Training Board.

Misterio said the High Court of Hong Kong-Special Administrative Region (SAR) has ruled that the HK$400 levy imposed on employers per month and the reduction of the minimum allowable wage of foreign domestic helpers from HK$3,670 to HK$3,270 per month are both reasonable and lawful.

The 63-page decision specified that the levy fee and wage cut do not constitute any form of taxation and that the levy has not been imposed to raise general revenue for the Hong Kong government.

Misterio said the court found the levy more in the nature of a fee charged for the privilege of employing non-local workers who would otherwise not have permission to work in Hong Kong.

She added the ruling also maintained that there is no link between the two orders on the levy and wage cut, refuting the petitioners contention that the two Orders were linked that resulted in an indirect tax being imposed upon them and all other foreign DHs.

Misterio said the court found the wage cut lawful since the Hong Kong government has the right to set the minimum wage stressing the wage cut was imposed primarily due to the down turn of the Hong Kong economy. The court also ruled the employees (foreign DHs) do not have the legal standing to challenge the levy.

Misterio also clarified that Secretary Sto. Tomas was not being arrogant in reaction to the wage reduction and levy issues in Hong Kong, contrary to published reports. She said Sto. Tomas’ suspension of deployment of new hires to Hong Kong on March 10-31, 2003 was meant to protect the interest and welfare of the OFWs as the DOLE found the decision of the HK government to reduce the minimum allowable wage of foreign DHs by HK$400 unjust and discriminatory.

While the suspension of the processing of contracts of new hires for Hong Kong would have meant losing our share in the market, the Philippine government would not want to compromise if the welfare and protection of our OFWs are at stake, Sto. Tomas said.

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