Manila, March 3, 2003 -- Malacañang yesterday warned if Hong Kong authorities fail on their promise not to impose levy on the monthly pay of foreign domestic helpers with existing contracts, it will support the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in bringing the matter before the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“On the side of the DoLE, they are still making representation before the Hong Kong authorities but if that will not be successful, they are ready to elevate this case to the ILO,” presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a radio interview aired over RMN News Manila.

Bunye expressed pessimism on a report that Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has convinced the authorities in China's Special Administrative Region to exempt Filipino domestic helpers with existing contracts from the new wage policy.

“If it's indeed true, it's a relief for us. We hope it's true,” he said.

About 153,000 Filipino maids will be affected once Hong Kong imposes the HK$400 (US$51) levy on the monthly pay of domestic helpers starting April 1.

Based on records, they are part of the estimated seven million overseas Filipino workers worldwide who remit a total of $8 billion to the Philippines yearly.

For its part, the Labor department said despite the looming slash in the minimum wage of Hong Kong's domestic helpers, the region would continue to be a choice destination for Filipino women who want to work abroad.

DoLE Undersecretary Manuel Imson said the cut in the minimum wage of the domestic helpers in Hong Kong would mean smaller remittances to their families but added the former British territory would still be paying the expatriates better than other countries. Imson noted that 103,000 Filipino maids were deployed to Hong Kong last year and their contracts would not be up for renewal until next year.

Only 40,000 of them are expected to have their contracts renewed this year as most contracts cover a two-year period.

“More domestic helpers still prefer Hong Kong because the wages there are higher than in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand,” Imson said.

The Labor department does not expect substantial changes in deployment to Hong Kong next year. If ever there is a decrease, it said, it will not be substantial.

Imson said the deployment of Filipinos to Hong Kong dropped by 7.7 percent last year. But even with the lower deployment, remittances from Filipinos in Hong Kong increased slightly. No figures were immediately available.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has said remittances from Filipinos working in the Chinese region amounted to $209 million in the first nine months of 2002, higher than the $179 million posted in the same period in 2001. (Sherwin C. Olaes, Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved