PINAY MAIDS IN HK BLAST GMA FOR BAN   

Hong Kong, March 6, 2003 -- A union of Filipino maids in Hong Kong criticized Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday for imposing a temporary ban on exports of domestic helpers to the territory.

"Only a president who does not heed the call of her people can come up with such an unthinking policy. Only a president who has been absent in the fight for our rights will make a hit that totally misses the target," the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK) said in a statement.

The union is unhappy with Arroyo's announcement to stop processing the contracts for domestic helpers bound for Hong Kong in the wake of the territory's decision to slash the minimum monthly wage for foreign maids, despite appeals from the Philippine government.

"Today, I have directed the (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) Board to temporarily suspend the processing of all contracts for domestic helpers in Hong Kong," Arroyo said in a statement Wednesday carried on the Web site of the Office of the Press Secretary.

Arroyo described the Hong Kong decision as "unfair and unjust," saying that she has also ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to forge "a coalition" with other countries that send domestic helpers to Hong Kong to jointly protest any unfair levies or wage cut.

The Philippine president said she has ordered a review of the existing policies on Filipino maids working overseas.

However, UNIFIL-HK said such a "foolish measure" is not what Filipino maids want.

"We do not need empty threats that further put our jobs in jeopardy. We do not need irrational actions," the statement said.

What the Filipino domestic helpers want is that the Philippine government to step up its lobbying efforts to reverse the Hong Kong decision, the union said.

Last week, the Hong Kong government announced its decision to cut the minimum monthly wage for foreign maids by HK$400 (about $51) to HK$3,270, as the territory will impose a corresponding monthly levy on their employers for hiring them.

Most of the 240,000 foreign maids here are coming from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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