As Chair of the Steering Committee of the OFW Coalition, we made a position paper against excessive agency fees that recruitment agencies exact from overseas Filipino workers.
I found relevance in sharing it here at the Central Philippine University blog for the following considerations:
- Many students/graduates of Central Philippine University are children of OFWs or they have OFW relatives;
- This is one scandalous issue involving corruption and illegal collection of fees by recruitment agencies;
- A Centralian heads the HK campaign.
OFW COALITION AGAINST EXCESSIVE AGENCY FEES
A joint petition against illegal charging of placement fees by recruitment agencies!
We – migrant’s groups, church organizations, service providers*, and concerned individuals in Hong Kong – are appalled by the pervasive practice of illegal collection of placement fees by Recruitment Agencies on OFWs, especially those who apply to work as Domestic Workers.
This practice is preying on the vulnerability of the millions of Filipinos who, in the absence of job opportunities in their country, are desperate to find work elsewhere to support their families.
Compiled surveys show the adverse effect of this illegal practice on the Filipino people who are forced to leave their families to find work abroad. In 2007, a survey conducted by the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) revealed that:
- The number of OFWs who pay P60,000.00 to P100,000.00 as Placement Fee increased from 35% to 51%. What is ironical is that this happened after the POEA Guidelines on the Hiring of Filipino Household Service Workers that prohibited the charging of placement fee to newly hired OFWs were implemented. Meanwhile, those paying more than P100,000.00 increased from 5% to 10%.
- One of the major cases Service Providers encounter among OFWs is illegal charges of Recruitment Agencies. For example, 94% of the cases handled by the MFMW in 2010 involved those charged illegally by their Recruitment Agencies, with 53% paying more than HK$12,000 (P66,138.00). And these fees are exacted from OFWs without Official Receipts from the Recruitment Agencies.
Moreover, organizations of migrant workers have also highlighted the issue of illegal charges by Recruitment Agencies in some of the biggest gatherings of OFW groups in Hong Kong.
Putting a stop to the illegal practices of Recruitment Agencies was one of the most consistent demands in the first and second Filipino Women Migrant Worker’s Summit held in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
To reiterate this demand, more than 130 leaders in the All President’s Meeting of the different migrant workers’ organization signed a joint open letter for President Aquino in 2010.
Thus, seeing the blatant practice of illegal exaction of placement fees on OFWs, we join our voices in raising the long-held demands of OFWs in Hong Kong and elsewhere. The following are our unified and urgent call:
- We call to scrap the POEA Guidelines on Hiring Filipino Service Workers for it worsened the situation of OFWs. Instead of curbing overcharging of placement fees, it is being used by Recruitment Agencies to charge even higher fees in the guise of training. Rather, we ask the government to strictly enforce the “no placement policy.”
- We call to lift the ban on direct hiring that forces OFWs to go through Recruitment Agencies and suffer from illegal charges. Direct hiring should be made as an option for OFWs to get a job overseas. To ban direct hiring is to forcibly subject OFWs to the machinations and various modus operandi of Recruitment Agencies that puts OFWs in the vicious debt cycle. In fact, we long for the day when there will be no more Recruitment Agencies.
- To break the climate of impunity, prosecution, NOT conciliation, is how cases of illegal charging of placement fees should be handled. Under Republic Act 10022 to charge or accept directly or indirectly any amount greater than that specified in the schedule of allowable fees prescribed by the Secretary of Labor and Employment, or to make a worker pay or acknowledge any amount greater than that actually received by him as a loan or advance is considered illegal recruitment. Illegal recruitment under the law is a criminal offense. The practice of conciliation removes the gravity of the offense and, in reality, does not curb the practice of charging illegal fees.
- We call for the enactment of a genuine pro-OFW charter of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The current OWWA Omnibus Policies should be changed because welfare services are the responsibility of the government. In reality, the Recruitment Agencies’ primary interest is profit-making and not welfare assistance to OFWs in distress. Passing on the responsibility of welfare provision to Recruitment Agencies is detrimental to the interests of OFWs.
- Finally, we call on Pres. Benigno Aquino III, as he promised in a televised dialog with OFWs on February 25, 2011, to act immediately and decisively in putting an end to illegal charging of placement fees by Recruitment Agencies.
This is the sad plight of OFWs, the people who keep the economy afloat through their billions of dollars of remittances year after year. And these are their legitimate and urgent issues and appeals. They deserve immediate actions. And the actions should be done now.
Submitted for immediate action by:
OFW COALITION AGAINST EXCESSIVE AGENCY FEES, HONG KONG
*Service Providers refer to some religious and non-religious organizations working together to provide temporary shelter, counseling, food, accompaniment in court cases, limited financial assistance, and other forms of service for OFWs in distress.
Rev. Danilo Borlado is the pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, a church based in Hong Kong. Rev. Borlado and wife, Marilou have been ministering with overseas Filipino workers for many years now. Dan and Marilou are both graduates of the College of Theology, CPU. Their children, Jec Dan, pastor and Deo Grace, English teacher are also graduates of CPU.