OFWs can enter Taiwan next month–MECO

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Filipino workers can soon enter Taiwan, probably after Chinese New Year on the second week of February barring any Covid-19 surge in Taiwan, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) announced Thursday.

De facto Ambassador to Taiwan Wilfredo Fernandez said he spoke recently with Taiwanese Labor Minister Hsu Ming-Chun about the clamor to allow Filipino workers to Taiwan, and was assured of the resumption of deployment of OFWs to Taiwan soon.

Taiwan had earlier restricted the entry of foreign workers in 2020 and lifted it on May 19, 2021. However, recruitment agencies said OFWs are still not allowed entry, although other nationals like Indonesians have already resumed deployment in November 2021 and Thailand in December 2021.

“Fernandez said he reiterated during the meeting his request to Hsu to allow the return of the OFW who have been seeking deployment for the past eight months,” MECO said in a statement.

In a Facebook Live, Labor Attaché Cesar Chavez Jr. said Taiwan would most likely have more available quarantine facilities after the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 7.

This year, Taiwan declared Chinese New Year’s public holiday from January 29 to February 6. During this holiday season, many Taiwanese from overseas come to Taiwan and hotels and other accommodation are always full.

Chavez said as far as the government is concerned, it has already complied with the additional requirements of the Taiwanese government for health protocols of incoming OFWs.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III submitted a letter of concurrence last November 2021 agreeing to the Taiwanese demand for OFWs to undergo quarantine three days before their flight to Taiwan on top of the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Taiwan.

Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited To Taiwan Inc. (PILMAT) earlier asked permission from DOLE and MECO to charge OFWs the pre-departure accommodation, which costs ranging from P4,500-P6,000 because their business too had been hit by the pandemic. They said recruiters in Indonesia and Thailand have been doing this to their workers.

MECO insisted that recruitment agencies should shoulder the cost of accommodation for isolating OFWs in Manila prior to flight to Taiwan, as this is in compliance with the memo circular issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in January 2021. Manila has also committed to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to adhere to the principles of ethical recruitment.

“Kung magmamatigasan po ang agency na OFW ang gagastos sa pre-departure accommodation cost, eh papatawan po sila ng karampatang parusa ng POEA,” Chavez explained. “Ang hirap naman po na hindi pa nagtatrabaho ang mga OFWs natin, may utang na.”

Ambassador Fernandez also threatened to suspend the license, delist from accreditation the agencies of OFWs who force to pay for their pre-deployment expenses.

Chavez explained that the deployment of OFWs to Taiwan still depends on the readiness of Taiwan to accept more foreign workers amid the pandemic.

He said Taipei prioritized Indonesia because they need domestic helpers and caretakers to take care of their disabled and elderly population. Indonesia is the number one labor supplier of domestic helpers to Taiwan, around 200,000, whereas Philippines has at least 26,000.

Thailand came in second among the foreign expat workers because they need 200 construction workers and engineers to work at the construction of Taiwan international airport. He said he also heard from his Thai counterpart that they are having trouble deploying their Thai workers this month because of lack of accommodation for quarantine in Thailand.

Chavez said they have spoken with the Taiwanese employers of direct-hire OFWs and recruitment agencies of Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) mostly in semiconductor industries. They have agreed to pay for all pre-departure expenses of OFWs, Chavez said.

Direct hires and RBA-hires make up 40 percent of OFW deployment to Taiwan, he estimates.