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Philippines scraps mandatory bond for Singapore recruiters

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Philippines scraps mandatory bond for Singapore recruiters
A traveller, wearing a protective facemask amid fears about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walks past the Rain Vortex display at Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore on February 27, 2020.
AFP / Roslan Rahman

MANILA, Philippines — With Singapore intending to hire more Filipino health care workers (HCWs), the Philippines is lifting the mandatory performance bond for Singaporean employers and recruitment agencies.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said the Philippine government has decided to remove the required bond that could pave the way for the hiring of more Filipino workers in Singapore.

“The Ministry of Manpower has a good working relationship with our Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Singapore. There never was an occasion for the POLO to garnish the bond in favor of an aggrieved worker in the past because complaints are promptly handled by the MOM which strictly monitors its accredited recruitment agencies,” Ople noted.

She recalled that the POEA issued a circular directing Singapore agencies and employers to pay a bond following the case of Filipino domestic helper Flor Contemplacion, who ended up being executed for murder in 1995.

Ople said the Minister of Manpower Tan See Leng described the lifting of the performance bond as “Christmas in September” because they have been lobbying for its removal for the last 27 years.

She said Tan affirmed the commitment of the Singaporean government to protect the rights of all Filipino workers employed in the city-state.

There are about 215,155 Filipinos staying in Singapore and of that number, 180,605 are temporary migrants. Over 81,272 or 45 percent of the temporary migrants are domestic workers while the remaining 99,333 belong to the professionals, highly skilled and semi-skilled workers categories.

Ople said that the goodwill arising from President Marcos’ state visit and the lifting of the guarantee bond will lead to more and better job prospects in Singapore.

“Even prior to the President’s visit, our labor office in Singapore had already approved close to 10,000 job orders with 5,000 jobs awaiting aircraft technicians in the aviation industry,” she said, adding that the approved job orders are expected to be filled in the next months.

During Marcos’ visit, the Philippines and Singapore forged an agreement for the hiring of more Filipino HCWs.

Both countries, Ople said, are set to hold exploratory discussions on a “mutually beneficial” deployment arrangement for Filipino HCWs.

“Singapore provides a good alternative to our health workers who wish to work abroad but in a destination country much nearer to our homeland,” she said.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health is interested in discussing training programs and scholarships for Filipino nurses, she added.

Ople gave assurance that the deployment of Filipino HCWs will be done through legal, transparent and ethical recruitment system.

‘Stop health budget cut’

In a separate development, the group of HCWs Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) urged the Marcos administration yesterday to stop cutting the budget for the health sector.

“If President Bongbong Marcos’ real priority is health, the budget for public hospitals, health programs and health worker benefits should be raised,” a statement in Filipino by HEAD secretary general Albert Pascual said.

Pascual said the administration should rechannel and distribute the budget to the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and Capital Outlay of public hospitals and facilities, the large centralized funds allotted for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients, purchase of drugs, medicines and vaccines.

With the proposed 2023 national budget, Pascual said Marcos is just continuing his predecessors’ neoliberal policies of budget cuts and contractualization, and priority for infrastructure, debt servicing and the military.

He said only the cronies, and big local and foreign businesses will benefit from such budget proposal at the expense of people’s health.

HCWs have found an ally in Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III who said nurses and doctors should not be made to bear the brunt of the budget cuts in the name of fiscal tightening.

“To cut the health sector’s budget in the name of fiscal tightening is a mistake that can be proven costly, if not deadly. This is not a sound policy given the fact that there is a continuing pandemic,” said Pimentel, who referred to HCWs as “pandemic heroes.”

“Is this how we intend to reward the sacrifices of our pandemic heroes? Our health care workers deserve a raise, praise, and more benefits, not a budget cut,” he added. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

SUSAN OPLE

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