TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on Wednesday (Jan. 12) announced that Taiwan is going to reopen its borders to Filipino workers "very soon."
On Tuesday (Jan. 11), MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo Fernandez met with Ministry of Labor (MOL) Minister Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) to discuss reopening Taiwan's borders to Filipino migrant workers, according to a MECO press release. During the meeting, Fernandez stressed the need to enable some 4,000 "stranded" Filipino workers to return to Taiwan.
Fernandez emphasized during the meeting the need to provide equal pay to both household workers (HHW) and factory workers (FW). Currently, the Labor Standards Act and its minimum wage regulations apply to FW but are not enforced for HHW.
He also criticized the "exorbitant fees" Philippine recruitment agencies charge Filipinos, with one worker reportedly having to pay PHP 200,000 (US$3,900) in placement fees to recruiters. He suggested the issue could be resolved through simplified recruitment and enhanced cooperation between the two nations.
MOL Workforce Development Agency (WDA) Director-General Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良) on Wednesday was cited by CNA as saying that he had discussed reintroducing Filipino workers and related epidemic prevention measures with Philippine counterparts. Tsai said that when the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has prepared the necessary documents and provided them to the WDA, they will be presented to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for approval.
CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that after the MOL assesses the capacity of the existing quarantine centers in Taiwan and proposes the number and scheduled arrival of Filipino workers, the center will review this proposal as soon as possible to speed up the reopening of the borders to migrant workers from the Southeast Asian nation.
During a MECO live Facebook stream, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) Labor Attaché Cesar Chavez Jr. said that unless there is a new COVID surge in Taiwan, the country is likely to allow Filipino workers to enter after the end of the Lunar New Year, when more quarantine facilities will be available.
Filipino recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani told Taiwan News that a main sticking point is that Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is insisting employers and labor brokers pay for workers' pre-departure quarantine expenses. Taiwan, on the other hand, is asking that workers pay for the cost of the pre-departure quarantine, with brokers covering the initial cost before requiring the workers to pay them back later.
PILMAT (Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited To Taiwan, Inc.) held a meeting with MECO and requested that they be allowed to charge Filipino workers for these pre-departure fees. However, Fernandez rejected their request and warned that MECO would check with all arriving Filipino workers to determine whether they had been coerced into paying for their pre-departure expenses; if any violations are found, the offending agency's license will be suspended.