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Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999 08:20:21 +0800
From: BAYAN <> (by way of
Subject: [asia-apec 1003] Illegal Placement Fees
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From: Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos <apmmf@HK.Super.NET>

Philippine Labor Attache Admits Philippine Government Has Failed to Stop Collection of Illegal Placement Fees

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos, 17 January 1999

Admitting that the Philippine government has failed to stop collection of illegal fees from placement agencies and brokers, Philippine Labor Attache to Kaoshuing, Taiwan George Eduvela asked church NGO's working for migrant workers if they are amenable to raising the placement fees in Taiwan to a reasonable level. In effect, Eduvela is asking the church NGO's to stamp their approval on government's kowtowing to the demands of unscrupulous businessmen and legalize their plundering of would-be and deployed overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan.

This suggestion was aired during a dialogue between the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and church NGO's on the night of September 15 at the MECO office in Taipei.

In reaction to the proposal, Fr. Peter O'Neill of the Hope Workers Center argued that raising the placement fee to a reasonable level will not guarantee that the brokers will not ask for more. He cited the case of the Thai workers in Taiwan whose government has allegedly agreed with the brokers that each worker should pay $NT56,000.00 plus $NT1,000.00 a month for three years for a total of $NT92,000.00. Fr. O'Neill added that his Center has found out that some Thai workers have paid much higher with some paying as high as $NT200,000.00.

In addition, one NGO worker pointed out that even the Overseas Employment/Travel Advisory of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency(POEA) which featured the Taiwan Labor Market in May 1996 admitted that the level of prevailing fees being charged workers bound for that country is however much more than the prescribed rates reaching up to P70,000.00. To this, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Director General Edicio de la Torre, who was the guest speaker at the dialogue, lamely commented that the government has a policy of full disclosure and selective deployment. In effect, he is saying that it is not the government's but the overseas workers' fault if he or she agrees to pay the illegal fees.

This kind of argument is also reflected in two contentious issues which the MECO is negotiating with its Taiwanese counterparts regarding passports kept by employers and forced savings imposed by employers on migrant workers as a deterent for the latter's running away. Initially, MECO is proposing that passports and forced savings should only be allowed with a migrant's consent shown by a signed contract. To this, Sr. Ascension Lim of Rerum Novarum explained that in practice Filipino workers have practically no choice but to agree with their employers to keep their passports.

The Philippine government officials are surrendering their responsibility to protect the migrant workers as evidenced in these two issues. When a migrant worker has no choice but to agree to both unjust practices in pain of being terminated, it is convenient for the Philippine government to blame him or her later on for having agreed to such unjust agreements.

It all ends up to economics. Jose Aspiras, the new MECO managing director, stated that the Taiwanese employers need Filipino workers and the Philippine government needs the dollar remittances of the workers in order to prop up the economy. In the end, though, who needs the migrant workers more? Added to this is the fact that Taiwan is the fourth largest trading partner of and fifth largest investor in the Philippines.