About 30,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) employed in South Korea face possible displacement and may soon return home.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said an ongoing crackdown on undocumented foreign workers in South Korea could trigger the displacement of many OFWs.
“A number of OFWs in South Korea may be displaced … not due to the prevailing economic crisis but because of the crackdown against illegally deployed and overstaying foreign workers,” Roque said in an interview.
Roque said the government of South Korea mounts a campaign against illegally deployed and overstaying foreign workers annually.
“The crackdown happens every year and it covers all nationalities, not only Filipinos,” Roque pointed out.
Roque noted that so far, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) has not received any report of OFWs arrested or deported because of the crackdown.
The local recruitment industry previously reported that many Filipino workers in South Korea are opting to stay illegally rather than return home.
Recruitment leaders said there are about 30,000 undocumented OFWs in South Korea and the number has been steadily increasing over the past two years.
Many of the runaway Filipino workers, recruiters said, are now employed in the so-called “3-Ds” or dangerous, dirty, and difficult jobs in factories.
But there’s still good news for workers retrenched due to the global economic crisis.
The local recruitment industry reported yesterday plans to immediately redeploy the thousands of highly skilled Filipino workers who were forced to return home after being laid off from their jobs abroad.
Loreto Soriano of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc., said their member-agencies are now establishing a database of prematurely laid off workers so they could be redeployed overseas.
“The federation has already asked its member-associations to establish a database of prematurely retrenched OFWs that could be made available in a pool from where overseas employment service providers can recruit qualified workers for their existing job orders,” Soriano said.
He said the most likely to be redeployed are professionals and highly skilled workers who have gained long experience in their jobs overseas.
According to Soriano, the workers will be deployed to various countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia which is now in need of thousands of construction workers.
He suggested that returning workers undergo counseling on the benefits of working in the Middle East, since most of them prefer jobs in the United States, Canada and other Western countries.
“We have to change OFW attitudes about workplaces and biases against the Middle East and disregard our preferences in a time of crisis. Let’s encourage our OFWs to go to countries that have work and decent pay, rather than to countries that pay higher salaries but the jobs are not available,” he said.
Soriano also called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to work with the private sector in enforcing the contingency plan for retrenched workers.
“We have warned of the crisis’ impact on OFWs, but we did not anticipate that OFWS would be sent home this early,” Soriano said.
With the retrenched workers now returning home, Soriano said, it is necessary for DOLE to initiate dialogues on how the private sector could help in providing jobs for them.
But Soriano expressed optimism that the Philippines can ride out the global financial storm.
Distressed OFWS coming home
Meantime, ten distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will finally be coming home to celebrate the holidays with their families after Sen. Loren Legarda shouldered their plane fares from Malaysia.
During a visit to the shelter of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday, Legarda saw the plight of the distressed OFWs who were either maltreated, abused or underpaid by their employers.
”Their stories are very disheartening, and you hear the same fate of other Filipino workers in other parts of the world,” said Legarda, who had a brief dialogue with the 22 Filipinos stranded in KL due to immigration and labor problems.
The OFWs will be arriving in Manila at 8:50 p.m. tomorrow via a Cebu Pacific flight after their papers were processed by Ambassador Victoriano Lecaros and his staff.
The STAR is not publishing the identities of the nine returning OFWs to insulate them from further embarrassment.
In an interview in Malaysia last week, the nine victims said they escaped from a condominium in Pelange Daman Sara last Dec.3 after their Filipino “guard” fell asleep and left the door of their room unlocked.
The Filipinas were recruited to work in KL by a Filipina and her Malaysian husband. Upon arrival in Malaysia, the victims were forced into prostitution.
If they were not sent out for “bookings,” the victims were padlocked in one of the three rooms of the condominium unit leased by their agent-employers.
Special visa for employers
A group of recruitment agencies is pushing for the granting of a special visa for employers abroad who hire a significant number of Filipino workers.
Loreto Soriano of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. said that the recruitment industry is pushing for the granting of a special visa for foreign employers abroad.
He said the government must provide the same privilege given to foreign employers here to employers hiring thousands of Filipino workers abroad.
“Granting a special visa to overseas employers will serve as an incentive for them to retain Filipinos in their overseas jobs and to hire more Filipinos in the light of the looming world financial crisis,” Soriano said.
President Arroyo previously issued an executive order granting special visas to non-immigrants who employ at least 10 workers in companies here.
Soriano said to generate more overseas jobs, foreigners who in their capacity as owners, officers, directors and managers of foreign companies who have provided overseas employment to at least 50 or even 100 Filipinos should also be granted a “Special Visa for overseas employment retention and generation (SVOERG).” – Mayen Jaymalin with Christina Mendez, Philippine Star