February 12, 2020
A non-government organization that specializes in overseas employment concerns called on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to immediately convene the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Council (OLTCC) to discuss the existing travel bans due to the COVID-19 virus and its impact on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The OLTCC is the POEA’s consultative council composed of leaders from civil society and the recruitment industry. The POEA acts as the Secretariat of the OLTCC and is able to invite relevant resource persons from other government agencies to meet with OFW stakeholders.
Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, noted that several travel bans were already in place without the corresponding POEA Governing Board resolutions.
“While the travel bans covers all travelers, a POEA-issued deployment ban makes this policy directive clearer, relevant, and enforceable for specific labor markets. In a field with so many players especially in the private sector here and overseas, the POEA must come up with its own Board resolutions especially since thousands of work contracts are involved,” the Ople Center said.
In the POEA rules and regulations, it states:
“SECTION 116.Ban or Termination of Deployment.— Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding sections, in pursuit of national interest or when public welfare so requires, the POEA Governing Board may, after consultation with the DFA, at any time impose or terminate a ban on the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers.”
“The Administration, based on reports, may recommend to the POEA Governing Board a reduction in the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers. (Emphasis supplied; source: POEA website)”
Ople cited the ongoing confusion about the travel ban to Taiwan as one of the reasons for the policy center’s proposal for immediate tripartite consultations.
“There have been conflicting signals over the travel ban to Taiwan. Is it due to pressing and urgent health concerns or is it more because of the One China policy? To inject geopolitics into what is known as a global health crisis may prove to be both untimely and unwise considering that the Philippines and Taiwan also have excellent and long-standing labor and trade relations. As stakeholders, we are looking at the POEA for a better understanding of the situation,” she said, adding that the labor department is part of the inter-agency committee on COVID-19.
The former labor undersecretary urged the POEA to convene the OLTCC with resource persons from the DFA and the DOH also present. In the 2019 data of the Philippine Statistics Authority, Hong Kong and Taiwan were listed as among the top destinations of OFWs.
Meanwhile, the Ople Center also cautioned the Department of Labor and Employment against any move to lift the deployment ban on domestic workers to Kuwait.
“Given the Kuwait government’s position that the Philippine Embassy should no longer accept runaway domestic workers in its shelter, then clearly the deployment ban on domestic workers must remain,” Ople said.
She said the amended Migrant Workers’ Act mandates all Posts to assist distressed nationals overseas to include the grant of temporary shelter. Assistance to nationals is also enshrined in Philippine foreign policy, and for the government to give this up in Kuwait, would make it easier for other countries to demand the same concession.
“It doesn’t make sense to lift the deployment ban to a country like Kuwait that is clearly against the temporary shelter of our abused domestic workers in the Philippine embassy. We will be violating our own laws if we do this,” the Center said.
The Kuwait government’s position against the temporary shelter being operated by the Philippine Embassy is contained in the minutes of the technical working group composed of Philippine and Kuwait officials.