Monday, November 13, 2006


In the wake of the campaign on transforming Filipino domestic helpers into “supermaids” by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in early August, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (c/o its women’s sector board representative Mina Gabor) held a “consultation” on the issue.

The proposal consisted of training ordinary domestic helpers in administering first aid, attending to emergency procedures such as evacuation in cases of fire, training in the local language of the country of employment, aside from performing the usual chores of housekeeping and cooking.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said this was a partial solution to the problem of unemployment facing about 30,000 Filipinos expected to return to the country from Lebanon where there was an ongoing war between the Hezbollah and Israel. (The picture shows some of them when they arrived in the Philippines.)

Many representatives of migrant related non-government organizations who attended the hurriedly prepared POEA consultation and as one, said they were against this new program.

This “ridiculous and horrible” idea was rejected by the participants (including representatives from the POEA mind you) for a thousand and one reasons – it would mean additional work but the poor overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who would still be a domestic. This would make him or her “invisible, undervalued, vulnerable to abuses and exploitation, not covered by labor and social laws with expensive training fees to boot!

The idea has since been dropped by the TESDA and nothing more has been heard about it in the past few months. But the seeming effect – controlling, and eventually cutting, the deployment of domestic workers is now being felt.

At the time, even Max Bringula, an OFW and a Filipino community worker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said the supermaids idea “is a big laugh.”

“They should instead improve the services that should be given to our fellow OFWs in need of help from their abusers,” Bringula said in Tagalog.

As one NGO head said "we are being turned into a nation of servants and the government does not mind it and is even promoting it."

More on the consultation tomorrow

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