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DOLE stops deployment of new hires

MANILA, Philippines — The government has temporarily stopped the deployment of  overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to all destinations in a bid to control illegal recruitment in the country.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello yesterday signed an order directing the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to suspend processing overseas employment certificates (OECs) for new hires and directly hired workers from Nov. 13 to Dec. 1.

POEA officer-in-charge Bernard Olalia said the suspension will prevent about 75,000 OFWs from leaving the country for employment abroad.

Olalia said the temporary suspension also meant a P7.5 million loss in revenue for the agency since every OFW pays P100 for OEC processing.

Excluded from the suspension order are workers hired by international organizations, members of the diplomatic corps, members of royal families and sea-based workers.

Bello said he created a team that will investigate illegal recruitment activities and submit its findings and recommendations in 15 days.

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He said he had to resort to a drastic move to protect the public from the serious problem of illegal recruitment.

“We received a report that 80 to 90 percent of direct hires are victims of illegal recruitment, and we have also got reports that there are people from POEA who earn (P250,000) with the issuance of OECs,” Bello said.

Olalia said OFWs on vacation are not covered by the OEC suspension.

Earlier this year, the POEA suspended the issuance of OECs to direct hires and fired some employees linked to the irregularities.

The local recruitment industry expressed surprise over Bello’s order to suspend the processing of  OECs for newly hired workers.

Federation of Manpower Exporters Inc. president Alfredo Palmiery said the industry supported the campaign against illegal recruitment, but the order should cover only the direct hires, who are generally the victims.

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