Philippines representative meets with MOL to negotiate migrant worker re-entry

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Wilfredo B. Fernandez, representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO, 馬尼拉經濟文化辦事處) met with Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) on Tuesday to discuss possible re-opening of borders for Filipino migrant workers.

At the meeting, Hsu remarked that the allowance of Filipino migrant workers is not far off in the future, adding that if the pandemic situation stabilizes, migrant workers are expected to be able to re-enter Taiwan after the Lunar New Year holidays when the quarantine facilities have more rooms.

During the meeting, Fernandez reiterated the position of the Philippine government, as he had previously submitted a proposal of allowing Filipino migrant workers into Taiwan in November 2021, saying that he hoped the quarantine and testing fees for migrant workers will be covered by a third party such as manpower (labor broker) agencies.

According to foreign media reports, PILMAT, a Filipino manpower agency had made a request to the Philippines representative office in Taiwan previously, hoping for their consent in asking migrant workers to pay for their own quarantine and PCR test fees.

However, Fernandez rejected the proposal on the spot and issued a warning to the agency that the representative office will now ask all arriving migrant workers if they had been pressured to pay for such fees.

If they were discovered to have been bullied by the manpower agencies, Fernandez vowed to revoke their licenses or remove them from the list of institutions certified by the representative office.

Talking about the wage gap between migrant workers working in the long-term care service and those working as factory workers, Fernandez said that Filipino migrant workers are generally highly educated, hard-working, and responsible, thereby suggesting that the Ministry of Labor (MOL, 勞動部) raise the salary of long-term care migrant workers to the same as that of factory workers.

At present, the minimum wage of migrant workers in the long-term care service is NT$17,000, and those working in factories or manufacturing businesses are protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) so their minimum wage is NT$25,250 per month, same as domestic laborers.

In addition, Fernandez also brought up the subject of exploitation from manpower agencies that charge high fees to migrant workers. According to various media reports, Filipino migrant workers have to pay an average agency fee of about 200,000 pesos (around NT$108,000) to work in Taiwan.

To this, Fernandez stated his strong objections to this type of practice and expressed his hopes for alleviating this problem by simplifying the employment process and strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

In response, Hsu emphasized that the Philippines is an important international partner of Taiwan, adding that Filipino migrant workers have made significant contributions to Taiwan’s economy.

Hsu vowed that the MOL will continue to review relevant labor policies and regulations to ensure migrant workers’ rights will not be infringed upon.

She also promised to discuss with officials the proposals brought about by Fernandez, while Fernandez, in turn, thanked Taiwan for providing a high-quality working environment for migrant workers.