MANILA - Undocumented Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can regularize their stay in the Gulf nation with the help of a new labor agreement which sets safeguards to ensure proper working conditions, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.
In a public press briefing, Bello said undocumented workers are covered by the unified employment contract agreed upon by the Philippines and the UAE.
Under the contract, OFWs must have at least 8 straight hours of sleep, a paid day-long break every week, the right to keep their mobile devices, passports, and other identification documents, the right to open their own bank account, and the right to cook their own food.
"Puwede na (They are allowed to.) They will now be covered by the standard employment contract. They can now regularize their stay in the United Arab Emirates,” Bello said.
Video courtesy: PTV
The Philippines in 2014 suspended the deployment of household service workers (HSW) to the United Arab Emirates because of the lack of an agreement safeguarding OFWs amid reports of abuses.
However, some illegal recruiters exploited a measure in UAE allowing the conversion of tourist visas to work visas, Bello said.
"'Yung ating kababayan, pumupunta sa UAE with a tourist visa. Kunyare magto-tour sila. Pagdating doon, maghahanap ng trabaho at ipapa-convert nila ang tourist visa to working visa,” Bello explained.
(Our countrymen go to UAE with a tourist visa. They pretend to come for a tour. When they arrive, they will look for work and they will convert their tourist visas to working visas.)
With the agreement, the conversion of a tourist visa to a working visa will not be allowed unless it has been approved by a labor attachè.
Bello in a previous interview said some 80 percent of 600,000 Filipinos in the UAE are undocumented.
The Philippines will resume deployment of workers to the UAE on March 31.