STOP SENDING RP MAIDS TO HK -- GLORIA   

Davao City, March 5, 2003 -- Citing a dispute over salary cuts President Gloria Arroyo today ordered that Filipina domestic helpers be banned from leaving for Hong Kong.

"I have directed the Department of Labor to temporarily suspend the processing of all contracts for domestic helpers in Hong Kong," Arroyo said in a statement.

Arroyo cited Hong Kong's plan to cut the maids' minimum wage by HK$400 (US$51) a month, which Arroyo described as "unfair and unjust."

The salary reduction, which takes effect in April, would reduce the minimum monthly salary for foreign domestic workers, including 153,000 Filipinos, to HK$3,270.

She said her government had asked that this policy be reconsidered and deferred.

The president also ordered Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas to "review existing policies on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers in other problem areas around the world."

She told the foreign department to "forge a coalition with other labor-source countries in order to protest unfair levies or wage cuts," and declared her government's support for the efforts of Filipino workers to contest Hong Kong cut.

She made the announcement in Davao City, where she was meeting with security and local government officials investigating yesterday's bombing of a terminal outside the Davao airport.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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