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Retrenched Workers from Taiwan Still Get No Help From Gov’t

Posted by lenolea on February 16, 2009

After more than two months, retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan are still waiting for any form of government assistance. This despite the claims of the government that it is prepared to respond to the needs of retrenched workers here and from abroad and its announcement that a P1 billion livelihood program is available.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
MIGRANT WATCH

After more than two months, retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan are still waiting for any form of government assistance.

In a meeting with officers of Migrante International, February 11, some 30 laid off overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Taiwan, mostly women, poured out their sentiments.

Mary Jane Javier, one of the 49 retrenched workers from Kingtech company, said they have not been paid for the unexpired portion of their contracts. She started working in Taiwan on June 25, 2008 and was laid off November 4 of the same year.

Javier said she paid P75,000 ($1,686 at the 2008 exchange rate of $1=P44.47) for placement fee and only got a P50,000 ($1,124) refund from the agency.

In a dialogue with retrenched workers last December, lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,236) for placement fee.

She and her co-workers have not availed of the livelihood program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Alma Ang and the rest of the 87 workers of the J3 International Holdings are demanding for payment of the unexpired portion of their contracts. She said all of them signed up for a two-year contract but most did not even reach one year at work. Their repatriation started in November last year.

Like the workers of Kingtech company, Ang and her colleagues were charged with placement fees ranging from P85, 000 ($1,911) to P145,000 ($3,260).

Ang related that during the POEA conciliation meeting, the agency only committed to pay them P10,000 ($224). She retorted, “Anong gagawin namin? Pagdating dito, walang kaming trabaho, walang pera.” (What could we do? When we were sent back, we have no work, no money.)

Artess Diaz, a worker from ASE, another semiconductors company in Taiwan, could not contain her tears when she said, “Lahat ng pangako, walang nangyayari. Ilang beses na kaming pabalik-balik sa OWWA, POEA, walang nangyayari. Anong klaseng gobyerno meron tayo?” (All there promises were never fulfilled. We were made to go back and forth to the OWWA and POEA to no avail. What kind of government do we have?)

Diaz is one of the 105 workers laid off by ASE. She said some of her co-workers only worked for three months. They have not been reimbursed the placement fee they paid to the recruitment agency.

Diaz added that the livelihood program offered by OWWA remains a promise. She said that on Dec 2, 2008. they were just given a bag of documents and flyers.

All of them have yet to receive reimbursements for their plane tickets.

The contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for their plane tickets in case of retrenchment or repatriation. Most of the OFWs paid for their own tickets which cost 5,500 NT each.

Roy Anunciacion, vice chairperson of Migrante, said Atty. Cesar Chavez, head of the POEA Operations Center, promised to reimburse the plane tickets of retrenched OFWs.

In a text message, Garry Martinez, Migrante chairperson, said that nobody has received reimbursements for their plane tickets despite Chavez’ assurance. He said the OFWs were told to wait for two to three more days.

Anunciacion said that Chavez also committed to provide P3,000 to P5,000 ($63.65 to $106 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.13) financial assistance to each laid off worker. “Sisingilin natin ang kanilang pangako,” (We would ask them to fulfill their promises.) he said.

Anunciacion said the P50,000 ($1,060) loan for livelihood projects should instead be made a grant.

In a dialogue last Feb. 5, Carmelita S. Dimzon, OWWA administrator, said the P10,000 ($212) grant for each OFW would not be in cash. The grant would entitle them to seminars and trainings.

“Hindi naman iyon maibabayad sa utang,” (It is not meant to pay off their loans.) Anunciacion said.

Gina Esguerra, secretary general of Migrante, said, “The insensitivity of the Arroyo administration is already beyond comprehension. The two-month ordeal of the retrenched OFWs in seeking redress to the government is already deplorable but to give them a run-around to an imaginary P1-billion ($21,217,907) livelihood program is utterly cruel.”

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced February 4 that a P1-billion ($21,217,907) livelihood support fund for displaced OFWs is now available.

“If Arroyo is really sincere in heeding the pleas of OFWs who have been affected by the global financial crisis, all she has to do is to listen to their immediate demands instead of concocting this inutile livelihood program,” Esguerra said.

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