DOLE tracks down recruitment agencies that sold Filipinos in Syria

Marje Pelayo   •   January 29, 2021   •   1084

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government has vowed to bring home a group of Filipino migrant workers who were tricked into working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) only to be trafficked to Syria.

Officials are also tracking their recruitment agencies.

In line with this, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has launched an investigation into the matter.

It was prompted by a report published earlier this week in the American news site Washington Post about at least 35 Filipinos who were recruited to work in the UAE but instead were sold to Syrian servitude and subject to abuse.

Some of those interviewed by the daily said they arrived in the UAE on 30-day tourist visas.

They claimed that the recruitment agencies which brought them to the Gulf locked them up until their visas expired and were then were sold for $8,000 to $10,000 and taken to Syria.

Those who managed to escape sought refuge at the Philippine mission in Damascus. 

“Marami sa ating mga kababayan na sumusugal, may mga backdoor. Iyong iba galing sa Mindanao dadaan sa Palawan. Galing Palawan pupunta ng Malaysia, sa Sarawak. Then from Malaysia, they’d go to Dubai,” Bello said.

Secretary Bello added that they will track the recruiters of these Filipinos.

“Kapag nalaman namin kung ano ang agency (nila) na iyon ay tiyak na either we will cancel their franchise or even sue them for illegal recruitment,” he assured.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he is sending a team from Manila to replace some Embassy staff in Syria and investigation on alleged ‘poor treatment’ of Filipinos in government-owned shelters is now being investigated.

Locsin assured that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) would send home all distressed Filipinos awaiting repatriation in Syria.

He stressed that the ban of Filipino workers to Syria remains in effect and thus those who are responsible for the trafficking of the said Filipinos will definitely be held accountable.

Bello tells micro, small biz:  Apply for a 13th-month pay loan

Maris Federez   •   November 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has announced that micro and small enterprises that are having difficulty in financing the 13th-month pay of their employees can apply for a government loan.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III made the call on Friday during the ceremonial launch of the loan program with the Department of Trade and Industry and its financing arm, the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp), reminding employers that the grant of 13th-month pay is mandatory.

The labor chief, however, assured establishments that are still struggling amid the re-opening of the economy of the government’s support through SBCorp.

“Let me remind the employers that the grant of 13th-month pay is mandatory. We issued a Labor Advisory where we maintained that no exemption and no deferment will be allowed on the payment of the 13th-month pay,” Bello said.

“So, with this loan facility from SB Corporation, there is no more reason to not give the 13th-month pay,” he added.

As of November 12, a total of 25 loan applications amounting to P5.052 million were already approved by SBCorp.

DOLE said qualified borrowers are the micro and small enterprises that have implemented flexible work arrangements and registered under the agency’s Establishment Reporting System as of October 15, 2021.

The zero-interest rate, no collateral loan program can cover up to 40 employees per establishment.

The loanable amount is at P12,000 per current employee which is payable in 12 months, inclusive of the three-month grace period.

“I encourage our employers, especially yung mga nahihirapan pa, to avail of this facility so that they can comply with the mandate to pay our workers with what is due them, especially this Christmas season,” said Bello.

The labor chief invites interested micro and small enterprises to apply at www.bayanihancares.ph. —/mbmf

PH to re-deploy OFWs after South Korea lifts restrictions – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   November 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers will soon be re-deployed to South Korea after entry restrictions into the country have been lifted, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement on Sunday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to commence the processing of deployment of workers as he welcomed the South Korean government’s decision.

“This is a very good news not only to our EPS (entry permit system) workers and their families, but also to the Korean employers who have been waiting for our workers to return,” he said.

Last Friday, Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) announced it will allow the entry of workers under EPS from all sending countries, including the Philippines starting this November.

According to MOEL, the entry of EPS workers will be subject to pre-entry measures such as full vaccination and negative PCR test results, and post-entry measures such as mandatory quarantine and PCR testing.

The Korean Embassy in the Philippines said it is awaiting guidelines from the South Korean government on the issuance of E9 visas to Filipino EPS workers.

Bello said he has directed the POEA to immediately meet with the Korean government officials to discuss the requirements and procedures for the re-entry of EPS workers to Korea, in coordination with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the Philippine Embassy in Seoul.

Since 2004, the Philippines has been sending Filipino workers to Korea under a government-to-government cooperation agreement on EPS.

The deployment of workers was temporarily halted in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

Bello: KSA to pay P4.6B unpaid salaries of OFWs in December

Maris Federez   •   November 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has announced that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were forced to return to the Philippines after they stopped receiving remuneration will be able to receive their unpaid salaries in December.

The DOLE said the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is expected to pay P4.6 billion in unpaid salaries to 9,000 OFWs.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in a statement, said he is optimistic the payment will be made when KSA Labor Minister Ahmed al-Rajhi visits the country in December this year.

“So, the unpaid salaries of our OFWs can be settled just in time for Christmas,” the Labor chief said.

Bello was in KSA last week to attend the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, a forum for talks and cooperation between Asian Countries of labor origin and destination.

It aims to enable safe, orderly, and regular labor migration in some of the world’s largest temporary labor migration corridors.

There, Bello was invited by Al-Rajhi for a private meeting where the KSA labor executive appealed for the lifting of the suspension on Arab mega recruitment agencies.

These agencies were reportedly the ones who were responsible for the deployment of OFWs whose salaries and benefits remained unpaid.

Bello assured Al Rahji that the Philippines would lift the deployment ban in exchange for the payment of salaries of the OFWs.

Repatriated by the government in 2016, the unpaid OFWs, through the help of state lawyers, won the case over their unsettled pay in KSA.

Despite the legal victory, however, the KSA government refused to pay the OFWs.

“But our government is really thankful that the meeting with the KSA labor minister was fruitful,” Bello said. —/mbmf

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