The Philippines and Singapore have agreed to hold exploratory talks on the hiring and deployment of nurses, medical professionals and other Filipino health care workers under a government-to-government arrangement.
The agreement is contained in a Joint Communique signed Wednesday by Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople and Singaporean Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
“We acknowledge the recognition given by the Singaporean government to the dedication and professionalism of our health workers, especially at the height of the pandemic,” Ople said.
She said the appreciation for Filipino nurses and other health professionals as well as OFWs in other job categories was a recurring theme throughout the duration of the state visit of President Marcos in Singapore.
“Our OFWs in Singapore have truly become ambassadors of goodwill,” Ople said.
The Joint Communique expresses the intent of both countries to:
- Explore mechanisms on the number of Filipino Healthcare Workers to be deployed under this Joint Communique;
- Launch exploratory discussions on a mutually beneficial deployment arrangement for Filipino Healthcare Workers to be employed in Singapore pursuant to existing laws and regulations;
- Affirm the importance of ensuring that the recruitment, protection, deployment, and placement of Filipino Healthcare Workers to be deployed in Singapore is done through legal, transparent and ethical recruitment policies and systems; and
- Uphold fair treatment of Filipino Healthcare Workers in Singapore pursuant to existing laws and regulations.
“Singapore provides a good alternative to our health workers who wish to work abroad but in a destination country much nearer to our homeland,” Ople said, adding that the Ministry of Health is interested in discussing training programs and scholarships for Filipino nurses in partnership with Temasek Foundation.
Removal of Singapore-only Guarantee Bond
The Singaporean government also expressed appreciation for the decision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Governing Board to remove the performance bond levied against Singaporean recruitment agencies and employers specifically for domestic workers as an offshoot of the Flor Contemplacion case in 1995.
“The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has a good working relationship with our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Singapore. There never was an occasion for the POLO to garnish the bond in favor of an aggrieved worker in the past because complaints are promptly handled by the MOM which strictly monitors its accredited recruitment agencies,” Secretary Ople explained. She added that the POEA issued a circular directing Singapore agencies and employers to pay the bond more than 20 years ago, and said order was applied only for and to Singapore.
Minister of Manpower Tan See Leng described the lifting of the performance bond as “Christmas in September” because they have been lobbying for the past 27 years for it to be removed. In his bilateral talks with Ople, Minister Tan affirmed the commitment of his ministry and the Singaporean government to protect the rights of all Filipino workers employed in the city-state.
As of December 2021, there are an estimated 215,155 Filipinos who live and work in Singapore. Of these 180,605 are temporary migrants: 81, 272 are domestic workers (45%) while the remaining 99,333 (55%) belong to the professionals, highly skilled, and semi-skilled workers categories.
POLO approves close to 10,000 job orders in Singapore
DMW Secretary Ople said that the goodwill arising from the President’s state visit and the lifting of the 27-year old guarantee bond will lead to more and better job prospects for Filipinos who wish to work in Singapore.
“Even prior to the President’s visit, our labor office in Singapore had already approved close to 10,000 job orders with 5,000 jobs awaiting aircraft technicians in the aviation industry,” Ople said.
She explained that approved job orders refer to immediate manpower requirements given by Singaporean employers to the POLO that are expected to be filled up in the next few months.
The breakdown of approved job orders submitted by Singaporean employers are as follows:
- Aviation industry – 5,000 aircraft technicians
- Medical industry – 3,000 healthcare workers
- Engineering industry – 1,000 skilled workers
- Education industry – 500 workers
- I.T. sector – 300 workers
Ople anticipates a surge in demand for OFWs in Singapore with the success of the President’s visit and the reforms being undertaken by the DMW in promoting ease of doing business strategies such as digitalization of various recruitment processes.
“Compared to other countries that also deploy migrant workers, our processing time takes months instead of weeks but with digitalization and given the remarkable talent and dedication of our workers, we expect a surge in demand for OFWs not only in Singapore but also in other parts of the world.”