(Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz issues the following statement on the commentary of Hong Kong legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yee against Filipino household service workers.)
“I am seriously concerned over the reported commentary of Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee against Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in Hong Kong which has stirred international controversy and aroused national indignation. Her reported negative remarks, I believe, is a personal opinion and do not echo the feelings and perceptions of the general Hong Kong populace, neither of the Hong Kong government of which she is identified as an apologist.
“Filipinos are culturally family-centered. We are known to highly value family ties. This trait has defined Filipinos for generations, wherever they are and whatever circumstances they may be in. Filipino women are homemakers, not home wreckers. They also fiercely defend their honor and dignity, as evidenced by the many cases of HSWs risking their lives by running away from employers and seeking shelter in our Filipino Workers Resource Centers because of the immoral behaviour of their employers.
“I acknowledge that some of our OFWs display unacceptable behavior and commit offenses abroad. We certainly do not tolerate this. As Secretary of Labor and Employment, I often remind every OFW to observe high moral standard in their work and lifestyle. But the mistakes of the few should not be misconstrued as reflective of the character of all OFWs.
“To address the issues raised by Ms. Ip, I wish it known that we continue to implement our strict policy on the ethical and legal deployment of HSWs only to labor laws-compliant employers and placing all erring employers and placement agencies in all countries of OFW destinations under preventive suspension or cancellation of accreditation.
“In Hong Kong, particularly, we continue our “cleansing” the ranks of foreign recruitment agencies (FRAs) by looking at those engaged in the exploitative and abusive practice of excessive collection of fees from OFWs in the guise of service fees from their local counterparts in the Philippines.
“We also continue to implement our return home policy under the National Reintegration Program with a very specific project, “Sa ‘Pinas Ikaw ang Ma’am/Sir” targeted at HSW-teachers who we are encouraging to come home and pursue their teaching careers. In cooperation with the DepEd, we have already placed 10 OFW-teachers in permanent teaching positions this first quarter of 2015, while 45 are expected to teach this coming school year. We still have some 300 teacher-position items allocated by the DepEd to fill-up.
“To ensure that our low- and semi-skilled OFWs are prepared for higher skill-level employment opportunities in the Philippines or abroad, we have brought the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s training, skills assessment, and certification on-site. We have begun this last year in Dubai, and we are preparing to start very soon in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and in other Middle East countries.
“I thank the civil society groups and individuals in Hong Kong and elsewhere who have risen in support and defense of our Filipino HSWs, whose industry and hard work enable the families they serve in Hong Kong to work, comfortable in the thought that their children are left in the better and secure care of Filipino HSWs.
I also wish to convey to our counterpart in the Hong Kong government our interest and readiness to engage them in bilateral talks to discuss the issues and concerns affecting the employment of Filipino HSWs in Hong Kong. Already, the POEA is in the midst of multi-stakeholders consultations on the no-placement fee convention of the ILO for our country’s ratification.”