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Filipinos barred from leaving to work overseas

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S'pore hit by exit ban on new workers until Dec 1

Some employers hiring new domestic workers may be left high and dry for at least the next three weeks, after the Philippine government suspended the processing of exit permits for Filipinos hoping to work overseas.

It said in a recent notice that the suspension would last from yesterday to Dec 1 while "persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities" are investigated. The suspension may be extended if needed.

New applications for overseas employment certificates, which are needed by Filipinos to leave the country for work, will not be processed during this time, except for those hired by international organisations and diplomats, seafarers hired by agencies, government hires and those returning from home leave. This means workers such as professionals and nurses are also affected.

An estimated 180,000 Filipinos work in Singapore.

The suspension applies to workers heading to all countries, not just Singapore, said Mr Ramon Pastrana, labour attache at the Philippine embassy in Singapore.

Some employment agents had booked plane tickets for maids to fly to Singapore this week, in anticipation of the certificates being approved. Maids who had travelled to Manila from the provinces to fly out are also stranded there.

Mr Low Moon Heng, director of Passion Employment Agency, said he had seven maids who were due to arrive in Singapore soon.

"We have to explain the situation to the employers and ask them to make other childcare arrangements or hire a maid from another country," he said.

Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K. Jayaprema said her group had appealed to the Philippine authorities to at least process applications where the maids have completed the rest of the process and are just waiting for the final green light to leave.

PeopleWorldwide Consulting's managing director David Leong said he had planned to place about 30 nurses and therapists in jobs here by January, but may now have to delay the deployments.

He said it is not clear how the suspension helps expose illegal recruiters. "Workers who apply for the certificate would have gone through the official, legal process," he said.

For mother-of-three Ong Hse-Yin, 40, the timing could not be worse. Her previous maid went home last week and she had been expecting a new helper to arrive at the end of this week.

"My older kids are starting their school holidays, so I have to find a Plan B, someone to watch over them during the day," she said.