MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine embassy in Pretoria warned Filipinos on Wednesday about illegal recruitment agencies based in Singapore promising high-paying jobs as fishermen in South Africa.
In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Ambassador to South Africa Virgilio A. Reyes, Jr. said that seven Filipinos working as fishermen on the Taiwanese-owned vessel Shing An No. 8 were repatriated to the Philippines last January 30 after they were physically assaulted by fellow crew members.
The repatriated OFWs were Edgar Reyes from Benguet; Edward Aoanan from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan; Lucas Manno from Buguias, Benguet; Reymel Saludares from Maddela, Quirino province; Stephen Fernandez from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan; Levi Fuentes from Iloilo; and Pruto Pono from Bacoor, Cavite.
The embassy informed the shipping agent in Cape Town that it was not prudent for the seamen to rejoin the vessel for fear of further physical harm.
The seamen had been working on the fishing vessel for six months, except for Fuentes and Saludares, who had been employed for two years and one year, respectively.
The embassy also sought the assistance of the Philippine Embassy in Singapore in processing the fishermen?s claims for unpaid salaries from the employment agency. The fishermen were told that they could only claim their salaries upon completion of their three-year contract.
In a similar case, Reyes reported that six other Filipino fishermen who arrived last January 29 in Cape Town refused to resume work on a fishing vessel two days later because the work contracts they signed in Manila, stipulating a monthly wage of $250 with overtime pay, were changed by their agency in Singapore.
They told embassy officials in Cape Town that when they reported to their employment agency in Singapore, they were made to sign a contract for $160 a month to work 22 hours a day on the high seas. While ashore, they were to be paid $50, deductible from their monthly pay, with no arrangements for monthly remittances to the Philippines.
The Filipinos paid between P40,000 and P45,000 to their individual recruiters in the Philippines who said they were to work on a cargo ship.
Reyes said that another Filipino fisherman, Jay V. Barcellano, from Amulong, Cagayan, who figured in a vehicular accident, was released from the Groote Schuur Hospital after a head operation. He was due for repatriation on February 2.
The embassy was able to obtain the services of a lawyer to file necessary claims to cover his hospitalization.
In light of these, the DFA reiterated its warning to Filipinos who want to work in South Africa to go through the proper processes of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration to avoid being victimized by illegal recruiters.