Recruitment fees continue to bury OFWs in debt –ADB report

Recruitment fees continue to burden overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) before and after their deployment, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released in February.

The report, cited by GMA News’ Marisol Abdurahman in her report on “24 Oras” on Friday, said OFWs suffer heavy salary cuts and direct payments, or take “large loans requiring repayment at high interest rates,” due to these “excessive” recruitment fees.

Titled “Safeguarding the Rights of Asian Migrant Workers from Home to the Workplace,” the report said the Philippines’ current laws have loopholes that are being exploited by recruiters to inflate recruitment fees.

“Existing legislation is often inadequate or has loopholes that raise migration costs. Most Asian migration legislation, including that of the Philippines as an example, allows for levying of fees by private employment agencies,” the ADB report said.

Lawyer Aristodes Ruaro, deputy administrator of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), admitted that existing laws allow for the charging of recruitment fees.

However, he said only skilled workers can be charged under Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

“Under our rules, under the law, our recruitment agencies are only allowed to collect from skilled workers,” Ruaro said.

Some countries forbid the collection of any form of recruitment fees, among them the United States of America under H2B visas, United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Ruaro said they are studying possible amendments to the POEA law and how they could enforce the law to avoid further abuse of OFWs.

“We are very strict with imposing our rules,” he said.

Prospective OFWs were urged to report all erring recruitment agencies to the POEA.

“They can be subjected to cancellation of their license,” Ruaro said.

The POEA receives an average of 30 to 50 complainants or sometimes 70 at their legal assistance division. About 60 percent of complaints are due to overcharging or problems with recruitment fees, the report said. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News


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