66 face raps for illegal recruitment to South Korea

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
66 face raps for illegal recruitment to South Korea
Undated file photo of Overseas Filipino workers, locally stranded individuals and passengers with cancelled domestic fl ights wait at the NAIA-2’s departure area.
STAR / Rudy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said at least 66 people were slapped with criminal complaints for their alleged involvement in an illegal recruitment scheme targeting “Seasonal Work Program” (SWP) participants.

The Philippines is seeking a binding agreement with South Korea for the protection of Filipinos hired under SWPs.

“We are already on track and, hopefully, in the near future, the national to national government agreement that we want may materialize,” DMW officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said at a news forum in Quezon City.

He said they have filed cases of illegal recruitment and estafa against the suspects before the Department of Justice.

Cacdac said unscrupulous individuals would act as brokers, demanding fees ranging from P20,000 to P100,000 from Filipinos hired as workers in farms in South Korea.

“They demand this (fee) from the worker before they leave, and if the worker is unable to pay, they would be in debt to whoever this broker is,” he said.

The brokers in the Philippines, Cacdac said citing insider information, also have counterparts in South Korea who claim to facilitate arrangement between the South Korean farm owner and the local government units (LGUs) where the workers come from.

A seasonal worker, Cacdac said, earns about P80,000 a month for a contract for about three to five months, with a possible extension to three months.

He said there are 67 LGUs in the country with sisterhood agreements with local governments in South Korea. He said he finds the arrangements odd, as these types of deals should be about cultural exchanges, tourism and trade-related endeavors.

Cacdac explained the so-called broker system is illegal, as the workers did not go through the DMW or a private recruitment agency.

There are around 3,400 Filipino seasonal workers in South Korea whose applications did not go through the DMW.

The DMW has also received about 160 labor complaints, such as violations of the contract as well as uncomfortable or undesirable living or working conditions in farms in South Korea.

With a binding agreement from the South Korean government, Cacdac said Filipino seasonal workers would be assured of protection from unfair practices.

“The South Korean government itself said they will protect (the seasonal workers), the same as they do factory workers. They will give them protection,” he said.

The Philippine government has an agreement with South Korea for an employment permit system covering factory workers since 2002.

Workers head for South Korea

The first batch of Filipino seasonal farm workers bound for South Korea has already left the Philippines, according to the DMW.

In a statement, the DMW said the farm workers underwent “Interim Pipeline Processing” (IPP) procedure that guarantees their rights and welfare under the SWP.       

“Under the IPP, overseas Filipino workers are provided contracts, decent working conditions, and insurance coverage as members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration,” the DMW said.

The SWP forms part of the sisterhood agreements between local governments of the Philippines and South Korea.

The SWP offers agricultural work to farmers from other countries for three to five months to “address chronic labor shortages” in South Korea.

The Philippines is among the countries that have signed a memorandum of agreement with partner local government units to participate in the SWP. — Rhodina Villanueva

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