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Recruiters argue accountability 'gaps' in renewed RP-SoKor deal :: 2009-07-10 23:56:37 UTC :: posted by iette

MANILA, Philippines - The renewed deployment deal between the Philippines and South Korea does not hold anyone accountable for the fate of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) onsite, local recruiters said.

Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed last May, the deployment of Filipino workers to Korea will be facilitated by the Employment Permit System (EPS).

The EPS is a government-to-government recruitment system implemented by both countries since 2004 that was supposed to correct the exorbitant mobilization costs charged by recruitment companies and their brokers in South Korea.

But the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, Inc. (Fame) told GMANews.TV that since the EPS operates between governments, it leaves no one accountable for the fate of distressed Filipino workers.

"There are clear gaps. With us [private recruiters], there is a very clear coverage, in the government there is not," Fame executive director Lito Soriano said.

He said that when deployment is facilitated by the private sector, workers have the option of filing cases against them and make them pay their unpaid salaries and benefits.

"But with the government, nobody is testing the boundaries," he said.

The MOU did say, however, that the two governments will "make effort to promote availment of benefits by the workers under the Departure Guarantee Insurance and Return Cost Insurance."

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) also argued that the deal guarantees the rights of the workers.

"There are disputed settlement provisions in the agreement," POEA chief Jennifer Manalili told GMANews.TV in a separate interview.

One of these provisions even requires that the Korean Ministry of Labor "actively cooperate with the Labor Attaché when workers report cases of illegal treatment by employer that makes repatriation inevitable, for the just resolution of the case."

Moreover, Manalili said Filipino workers can "exhaust" all the services of government agencies onsite.

Same cost for the workers

Soriano, however, said that these are not enough guarantees especially since the cost of deployment between that which is facilitated by the government and private recruiters are the same.

"That’s not enough, there should be justification. We believe the Philippine government should renegotiate other terms for the benefit of Filipino workers," he said.

Under the MOU, workers will have to pay the sending fees (application, preliminary training, processing, visa, and airfare) and onsite fees (return cost and casually insurance premium).

It also states that the worker will bear repatriation expenses if he or she returns to the Philippines prior to the termination of the contract for health or personal reasons.

In a previous report, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said that under the EPS, deployment to Korea fell by 40 percent in 2007 due to high numbers of runaways and complaints filed with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. [See: POEA urged to junk 'lopsided' RP-Korea deployment deal]

As of May 2008, a total of 20,476 Filipino workers have been deployed to South Korea.

They ranked first among foreign workers in terms of ability to adapt to Korean society and second in communication skills, a recent survey conducted by the Korean Labor Ministry said. - GMANews.TV

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