OFWs paying for expensive labor office in HK
It is a story that never ceases to amaze. Everyone who has heard of how our government is made to spend HKD$460,000 (US$59,000) on the spanking new quarters of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Admiralty Center cannot help but get shocked, if not mad.
And for good reason.
When all that we can offer to our distressed migrants is a shelter that can barely accommodate 10 people at a time, how could we in all conscience let our labor officers here work in such luxurious surroundings?'
When we see thousands of our workers line up for hours in sweltering heat just to be fleeced of $20 for a document that they absolutely don't need to prove their status as OFW, how could we not get angry?
When we hear of so many OFWs working virtually without pay for monhs just so they could repay money they borrowed for their illegal placement fees, how could we not feel sickened?
This unconscionable extravagance becomes even more shocking when we learn that POLO paid only for utilities when whey were in their shared space at the Consulate.
From being rent-free, they now spend nearly P3 million every single month for premises they could hardly afford, given that it's money that came from the sweat and tears of our OFWs.
To make matters worse, half of the luxurious new quarters could not be occupied on time because, as our new labor attaché candidly admitted in an interview, they had run out of funds for renovation.
For nearly half a year, the 16th floor space lay unoccupied, while rent of more than $200,000 (P1.1million) monthly was being paid. By the time it was ready to be used as a one-stop shop for OFW-related services, more than P5 million of precious taxpayers' money had been flushed down the drain.
Why, in the first place, did the Department of Labor decide to move its offices from the Consulate in United Centre?
Secretary Linda Baldoz said it was to provide a bigger space for our poor OFWs seeking help, but this did not make sense, and was hardly the solution to the regular congestion at the old POLO.
Many OFWs line up for help because they want to complain or seek reimbursement for the illegal fees collected from them by their recruitment agencies.
To resolve this, the obvious solution is not to expand the place where they ask for help, but to crack down on agencies that flout our laws and cause untold suffering to our OFWs..
Right now, the biggest queues are for the OEC, and again, giving OFWs more room to line up in does not solve the problem. Stop requiring this worthless piece of paper and you will find no reason to move to plushy offices and make your staff work beyond limits.
The real reason for this foolhardy decision was nothing more than labor's desire to get out from under the Consulate's wings, especially in the wake of ConGen Bernie Catalla's decision to investigate the excesses of former labor attaché Manuel Roldan.
That such a commendable act prompted this profligate spending speaks volumes about our labor officials' priorities.
It is oneupmanship that is like a slap on the face of our hardworking and long-suffering OFWs. It should be exposed, and stopped. – Rappler.com
This essay is republished with permission from The Sun-HK, a content partner of Rappler.