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Lawyers offer free service to HK maids

() - March 19, 2003 - 12:00am
Private lawyers in Hong Kong have offered their services for free to Filipino domestic helpers in filing legal action against the imposition of the wage cut by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), President Arroyo disclosed yesterday.

The President made the disclosure in an early morning interview yesterday over Radyo Bombo, where she reiterated the Philippine government’s readiness to lift the temporary ban on the sending of maids to Hong Kong as soon as their case is filed in Hong Kong courts.

"We have secured the services of good lawyers in Hong Kong who would provide their services for free," she revealed. "So our officials are there already meeting with the lawyers in Hong Kong."

The President added that this is good news for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which she earlier directed to set aside funds for the hiring of lawyers.

She noted, though, that OWWA is financially capable of meeting the legal expenses of Filipino maids in pursuing their case in court.

The Philippine government’s initiative to protest the HK$400 monthly levy on foreign domestic workers, which will take effect on April 1, was gaining support, she noted, not only from Indonesia and other labor-sending countries but also from Hong Kong employers themselves and non-government organizations (NGOs).

Hong Kong announced the 11 percent slash in the minimum monthly wage of foreign maids as well as an equivalent monthly levy on their employers in February, setting off a wave of protests from the affected sectors, including the Arroyo administration’s move to stop sending Filipino workers to the former British colony.

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, however, said that it would be better for the Philippine government to lift the ban on the deployment of maids to Hong Kong since the government could not really prevent people from pursuing their goals of working abroad because of better pay.

A Filipino household worker, he said, stands to earn about HK$88,080 or almost P600,000 in Hong Kong for a two-year contract.

"With the wage cut and a new levy, that pay still appears attractive to some of our people," he said, adding that what the government could do is to ensure their protection and safety.

He added that because of the ban, illegal recruiters may prey on Filipinos whose applications were affected by the ban. Recruiters estimate that about 5,000 applications were put on hold since the ban was implemented on March 5.Marichu Villanueva

A FILIPINO GOVERNMENT HONG HONG KONG HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION KONG MANUEL VILLAR JR. MARICHU VILLANUEVA OVERSEAS WORKERS WELFARE ADMINISTRATION PRESIDENT ARROYO RADYO BOMBO
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