INTERVIEW/Top envoy hopes Philippine workers can enter Taiwan before Dec. 14

11/24/2021 03:28 PM
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Wilfredo B. Fernandez, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office. CNA photo Nov. 24, 2021
Wilfredo B. Fernandez, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office. CNA photo Nov. 24, 2021

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) The new Philippines representative to Taiwan said he hoped his government will hammer out a deal with manpower brokers so that around 4,000 Philippines workers waiting to enter Taiwan can do so by Dec. 14.

Wilfredo B. Fernandez, Chairman and Resident Representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), said Taiwan has set three requirements for allowing entry to Filipino workers, including being vaccinated and getting screened for COVID-19 before arriving.

The third, that they be quarantined for at least three days in the Philippines before arriving in Taiwan, has led to the last problem to be resolved, Fernandez said: who should cover the cost of the three-day quarantine.

MECO has recommended to the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that manpower brokers foot the bill for the expenses, said Fernandez, who assumed his post as the de facto Philippines ambassador to Taiwan in September.

"I think the agencies should pay because they made money out of the workers," he told CNA during an interview Tuesday.

The agencies also benefit if the workers can be deployed sooner so that they no longer need to take care of them, he said, possibly referring to the cost of manpower brokers putting up workers at their training centers while they wait to be deployed abroad.

The three-day quarantine requirement has been sent to the Department of Labor and Employment in Manila for review, and the secretary of labor will discuss the issue with the brokers to prepare the workers to head to Taiwan using the formula MECO proposed, he said.

Dec. 14 has been set as a deadline because the entry of migrant workers into Taiwan will be suspended from Dec. 15 to Feb. 14 to leave room in quarantine facilities for the many Taiwanese nationals expected to return home for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Taiwan only recently reopened its borders to Indonesian migrant workers on Nov. 11, while negotiations have been held with the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to lift the ban on their workers.

Taiwan first banned entry of migrant workers from Indonesia in December 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation in the Southeast Asian country.

It then banned entry of almost all foreign nationals without residency, including migrant workers, on May 19 following an unprecedented spike in domestic COVID-19 cases in Taiwan.

The ban has caused labor shortages in Taiwan's high-tech and construction sectors and among Taiwanese families, who rely on the migrant workers as caregivers.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of Labor, migrant workers will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period and an additional seven-day self-health management period in government facilities after arriving, meaning they will have to spend a total of 21 days in quarantine.

That differs from the requirement for other travelers to Taiwan, who can return home for the self-health management period and lead their lives as usual, as long as they do not attend large-scale gatherings or dine in large groups.

(By Joseph Yeh and William Yen)

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