The Hong Kong government has already agreed to let overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who received Covid-19 vaccines in the Philippines to come and work starting Aug. 30, 2021 provided they can present validated Covid vaccine certificates issued by the Bureau of Quarantine, according to Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III.
This is good news to some 3,000 OFWs who are awaiting deployment to Hong Kong. Previously, only those vaccinated in Hong Kong were allowed entry to the region. OFWs were not granted access since they have different vaccination certificates issued by local government units.
Aside from Hong Kong, there are other countries who allow OFWs to work.
With this development, many desperate Filipinos aim to go abroad to alleviate the depressing lives of their families. Some of them just wanted to get out of mess and chaos hoping that life somewhere else will be better than staying home during the pandemic.
Based on the report of the Bureau of Immigration in 2020, immigration officers at the different ports of exit deferred the departure of 11,706 passengers, of which 9,411 were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The number of passengers whose departure was deferred last year was 70 percent lower than the 38,522 travelers who were stopped from leaving in 2019. Travel restrictions and international flight suspensions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic naturally caused a tremendous drop in the number of Filipinos who traveled abroad in 2020. It was only in October that the government started the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, including the ban on non-essential travel by Filipinos.
The BI’s travel control and enforcement unit also reported 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking as possible trafficking victims. The most common reasons for preventing a passenger from leaving are failure to present required documents, carrying fraudulent documents, and misrepresentation. They are victims of illegal recruitment.
Despite the significant effort of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, DOLE, BI, and law enforcement agencies to combat illegal recruitment and human trafficking, there are still a lot of people who fell victim of these scams.
If you are an aspiring OFW or a returning OFW, there are ways to identify an illegal recruiter. These are the modus operandi they use:
The illegal recruiter instantly asks for placement and other fees without giving a valid receipt; promising an immediate or fast processing of your papers to go abroad; requiring medical examination and training without clear status of employer and contract; making transactions with applicants in public places like restaurant, shopping malls, etc. and not in the office of the licensed agency; house to house recruitment of applicants and not giving enough information about the job you are applying for.
Other illegal recruiters also promise a direct hire employment and applicants need not pass through the POEA; promise a fast processing using a tourist or visit visa; cannot present a valid employment contract or working visa; pretend to be an employee of a licensed agency but cannot provide an ID; pretend to be connected to a licensed travel agency or training center; encourage applicants to recommend or convince other potential applicants in exchange of faster processing and earlier flight; and cannot disclose proper identification like full name and address and promising about submitting documents to POEA for processing.
Now that you know how to identify them, this is how to avoid illegal recruitment:
Do not apply at recruitment agencies not licensed by POEA; do not deal with licensed agencies without job orders; do not deal with any person who is not an authorized representative of a licensed agency; do not transact business outside the registered address of the agency. If recruitment is conducted in the province, check if the agency has a provincial recruitment authority; do not pay more than the allowed placement fee. It should be equivalent to one month salary, exclusive of documentation and processing costs and do not pay any placement fee unless you have a valid employment contract and an official receipt.
Also, do not be enticed by ads or brochures requiring you to reply to a post office or PO box, and to enclose payment for processing of papers; do not deal with training centers and travel agencies that promise overseas employment; do not accept a tourist visa; and do not deal with fixers.
These reminders may help aspiring OFWs to be very careful and vigilant in making transactions that involve recruitment, money, and empty promises. Do not hesitate to investigate, ask, and think twice before making a decision. Be knowledgeable. Ask questions.
Be careful and always check for legitimacy before you commit. Those who have doubts may call the attention of officials or employees of DOLE, Department of Foreign Affairs, BI, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, POEA, and law enforcement agencies.
For more information about illegal recruitment, visit our websites www.dole.gov.phor www.poea.gov.ph, www.owwa.gov.ph, www.dfa.gov.ph, www.bi.gov.ph or call DOLE hotline 1349 and Action line against Human Trafficking1343.
END/Patrick T Rillorta