By Marita Moaje

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) will release next week the third set of guidelines for the deployment of Filipino seasonal workers to Korea.

In a press briefing on Monday, DMW officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said they are currently working with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Justice (DOJ), concerned local government units (LGUs) in the country, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, the Korean embassy in the Philippines and the Korean Ministry of Justice to improve policies.

Citing DMW data, Cacdac said there are about 3,353 Filipino seasonal workers in South Korea as of December 2023 who are employed under the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP), which is a clause under the sisterhood agrements between certain local government units of the two countries. 

The SWP allows short-term employment of foreign agricultural workers in South Korea to address labor shortages during the peak planting and harvesting seasons. It is managed by the Korean Ministry of Justice and the Korean Immigration Service.

However, since deployment of workers started in 2022, Cacdac said the Migrant Workers Office in Seoul has received several complaints from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) regarding questionable deduction in wages and involvement of brokers who collect exorbitant fees in hiring OFWs.

“Around 150 or so are the registered complaints by our Migrant Workers Office in Seoul and there are also five documented cases of physical abuse, five medical cases, and four deaths in the course of two years,” he said.

Cacdac said “while we recognize authorities of LGUs to enter into sisterhood agreements, there is unequivocal authority of DMW to step in and regulate (the hiring) for better protection of workers.”

“It is embodied in our charter and our mandate. It’s embodied in the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, (and is) embodied in the Constitution which affords protection to labor especially overseas workers,” he added.

On Jan. 11, DMW issued its Advisory 1, putting a moratorium on the deployment of seasonal workers to Korea for a temporary period of time.

A related advisory was also issued establishing a process for interim pipeline processing of Filipinos bound for South Korea under SWP, underscoring the need for adequate welfare and monitoring systems to better the welfare of the OFWs. (PNA)