13 Filipino workers in Sabah opt for return to Iloilo

June 30, 2009 9:11 am 

MANILA, June 30 — Thirteen of the 15 disgruntled Filipino workers at a palm oil plantation in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia have opted to return to their hometowns in Iloilo province on June 26, it was learned today.

Their early release was approved by their employer, the See Hoy Chan Plantation — thanks to the mediation efforts of the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The other two, among them Butch Pastolero, decided to continue working, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano C. Lecaros reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The 15 workers are among the 50 Filipinos in the plantation who went to Sabah in two batches in December 2008 and January 2009. Other Filipinos in the plantation have been in the job for about 20 years.

The Philippine embassy’s Labor Attaché, Hassan Jumdain, helped in the negotiations, which had earlier been halted by the employers following what they claimed were the workers’ out-of-contract demands for wages and other benefits.

The disgruntled group had sought out the assistance of the Philippine embassy staff in Kuala Lumpur, which visited them right away to hear their gripes.

They had claimed not receiving proper wages and adequate food and of being detained against their will. DFA did not indicate if the proper wages were given after all.

It was learned that their contract stipulated a monthly pay of between RM800 to 1,000 (Malaysian Ringgit), based on actual individual output.

As it turned out, they departed for Sabah without clearance from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), making them vulnerable to exploitation.

Lecaros also denied allegations by Migrante International of the embassy's negligence of the plight of the Filipinos.

Contrary to Migrante’s accusations of DFA indifference, Lecaros was in Sabah at the time to look into the workers conditions and other issues pertaining to Filipino nationals there.

Following the unfortunate incident, DFA renewed its reminder that all prospective overseas workers ensure that their work contracts are reviewed and approved by the POEA. (PNA) scs/GJB

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