Philippine migrant workers to be allowed into Taiwan soon: MECO

01/12/2022 10:53 PM
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MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez (left) and Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (right). Photo courtesy of MECO
MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez (left) and Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (right). Photo courtesy of MECO

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) said Wednesday that Filipino migrant workers would soon be allowed to enter Taiwan following high-level discussions with Taipei's Ministry of Labor (MOL).

However, when asked for comment, the MOL emphasized the process of ending restrictions was ongoing and that certain details had yet to be confirmed.

Comments on the matter were released by MECO and the MOL following a meeting between MECO Chairman and Resident Representative Wilfredo B. Fernandez and Taiwan Labor Minister Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) Tuesday.

At the meeting, Fernandez reiterated his request for "stranded" workers in the Philippines to be allowed to enter Taiwan, according to a MECO statement.

Taiwan closed its borders to most travelers except for citizens and legal residents on May 19 last year, as part of its response to a spike in domestic COVID-19 cases.

The closure sparked debates and discussions among the Southeast Asian migrant worker community, as over 700,000 migrant workers from Southeast Asia had been employed in Taiwan at any given time between 2018 and June 2021, according to MOL statistics.

On Nov. 24, Fernandez told CNA that there were around 4,000 Philippines workers waiting to enter Taiwan.

Philippine labor attaché in Taiwan Cesar Chavez, Jr. had earlier said during a MECO live Facebook stream that unless there was another COVID-19 surge, Taiwan was likely to reopen its doors to overseas Filipino workers after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday when more quarantine facilities are expected to be available.

On Wednesday, however, Paul Su (蘇裕國), an official with the MOL's Workforce Development Agency, told CNA that Taiwan had set COVID-19 protocol requirements for the return of Filipino migrant workers.

Su said that the requirements included accreditation of 50 COVID-19 testing centers in the Philippines, several rounds of negative COVID-19 tests prior to employment in Taiwan, and designation of quarantine facilities.

In response to MECO's statements regarding the imminent ending of entry restrictions, Su explained the process was ongoing and that Taiwan's representative office in the Philippines still needed to report back to the MOL before the ministry reports the situation to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Currently, the CECC has not yet received the report regarding the matter because the Philippines and the MOL were still working together to confirm certain details, Su added.

In an earlier statement, the MOL noted that Taiwan had lifted entry bans on migrant workers from Thailand and Indonesia, Dec. 30 and Nov. 11, respectively, after CECC agreed to the move in light of the countries' willingness to cooperate and adhere to COVID-19 rules.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting with Hsu, Fernandez also suggested raising the salary of Filipino migrant workers employed in social welfare, such as live-in caregivers and domestic helpers, to match that received by Filipinos working in care homes and factories as well as on construction sites and coastal fishing vessels.

Unlike such workers, live-in caregivers and domestic helpers are not protected by the Labor Standards Act and the act's minimum wage requirements.

The increase to Taiwan's minimum wage this year means the gap between the different types of workers has only widened further.

In response, Su said the MOL would discuss the matter with MECO.

There was a total of 143,181 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, with 116,785 employed in productive industries and 26,396 in social welfare, according to MOL statistics valid at the end of November.

(By William Yen)

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