By Marita Moaje

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Department of Migrant Workers is now assisting 452 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in New Zealand affected by the recent closure of the company they are working in.

DMW officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said the department, together with its Migrant Workers Office (MWO) in Wellington, the labor attaché, the welfare officer from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs, are working together to assist the affected OFWs.

“We have around 452 identified OFWs seeking assistance and in process ang kanilang pagbibigay ng financial assistance (the distribution of financial assistance is in process). In addition to this, there are around 50 recipients who are New Zealand residents or dual citizens, at sila naman ay tinutulungan ng embahada (and they are being assisted by the embassy),” he said in a virtual briefing on Friday.

About 700 OFWs working in the construction and manufacturing sector under ELE Limited lost their jobs after the company announced its closure.

Cacdac said the bulk of the displaced workers are concentrated in Auckland and in Christchurch where the former company has big projects, while a smaller number of workers are scattered in other regions.

He said the DMW is also helping about 14 ELE Limited workers who were in the Philippines for vacation when the closure was announced.

Since some of the vacationing workers have certain financial obligations and personal possessions left behind in New Zealand, Cacdac said the way forward is for the Philippine Embassy in Wellington to make representations to the New Zealand Ministry of Affairs and request them to uphold the work visas of the workers to enable them “to return and settle their obligations and/or transfer of employers, if that is possible.”

Cacdac said they have received reports that several employers in New Zealand have expressed interest in employing the displaced OFWs, and the office of the labor attaché is now exerting its best effort to refer the workers to new employers.

He said the MWO also participated in a recent jobs fair organized by a Filipino non-government organization to facilitate employment for the displaced ELE Limited employees.

Despite the closure affecting OFWs, Cacdac assured that New Zealand remains a viable destination for OFWs.

“We have not received any report that says the New Zealand economy is affected, which means, there is no particular travel restriction going to New Zealand. From the DMW point of view, we will continue to process workers who have obtained the necessary permits, DMW clearances and immigration documentation for New Zealand,” he said. (PNA)