Wed, Jun 05, 2013 - Page 4 News List

FEATURE: Filipino migrant workers feel helpless in stand-off

Staff writer, with CNA

As investigations into the death of a fisherman at the hands of Philippine Coast Guard personnel continue, Filipino workers in Taiwan say they feel helpless and see their fate as being in the hands of the two governments.

Oria Gayaden, a member of Kapulungan ng Samahang Pilipino (KaSaPi, Association of Filipino Workers) said the association does not have plans to take action against either government over Taiwan’s freeze on hiring Filipino workers.

“We are waiting on how both governments, both parties, are going to come up with a solution,” said Gayaden, a 36-year-old who works as a domestic caregiver. “Even if we rally, we think there is no effect. There is no use.”

Taiwan froze the hiring of Filipinos on May 15, one of several measures it slapped on the Philippines in response to the May 9 killing of 65-year-old fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) in the two countries’ overlapping exclusive economic zones.

However, if the freeze becomes a long-term policy, Gayaden said her group might consider demonstrating or asking for help from the Philippine government.

“We just hope that this will end soon in a very, very democratic way and that both governments will settle it in a way so that the OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] will not be affected so much,” said Gayaden, who has worked in Taiwan for about 20 months.

While the freeze did not affect Filipino workers already in Taiwan, a prolonged diplomatic stalemate that keeps the freeze in place would make it impossible for them to renew their contracts when they expire, forcing them to return home earlier.

Taganahan Lilia Tomecos, a mother of three who works as a domestic caregiver, said she panicked when she heard about the freeze because she had planned to renew her contract for another two years when it expires in August.

Tomecos has been working in Taiwan for six years to pay for her only daughter’s college tuition and to support her 96-year-old father.

“She has only one year left. What will I do? I hope she can finish her studies and she can teach,” said the 59-year-old Tomecos, who broke down in tears several times during the interview.

“I need to work, even [for] two years,” Tomecos said, adding that she also needs to save money to cultivate a plot of land and rebuild her house in her hometown in Mindanao.

Tomecos earns more than NT$15,000 per month, while tuition, room and board for a year for her daughter cost 110,000 Philippine pesos (US$2,600), she said. She used to earn 300 pesos a day working in a factory in the Philippines.

Norman Rodriguez Pinson would have to leave in September if the dispute is not settled by then, but the 25-year-old said he still had debts to pay and had planned to stay for another year and a half.

One of nine children, Pinson and two of his siblings are working in Taiwan to support their families back home. He said he borrowed money from moneylenders to pay brokers in order to come to Taiwan, and he still owes them NT$50,000, about 2.5 times his monthly salary.

Pinson, who works in the electronics industry, said he had planned to save money for himself over the next year and a half in Taiwan so that he could find a new job in Canada, where he heard salaries are higher.

“I don’t know yet what will be my plan,” Pinson said, adding that if the freeze continues, he might go back to the Philippines or apply to work in another country.

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