Monday, January 10, 2011

Appointment of new POEA chief stirs mixed reactions

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has welcomed the appointment of the new Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief despite saying that the new head has “no background on overseas employment."

Recruiters’ and overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) groups, meanwhile, have differing opinions on the appointment of an “outsider" at the POEA’s helm.

In a statement, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said lawyer Carlos Cao Jr. is a welcome addition to the department as it strives to fulfill President Benigno Aquino III’s agenda for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their families.

“The DOLE and its family of agencies welcome Cao as he is equipped with extensive experience in human resource management, industrial relations, and corporate planning and administration, which would be relevant and useful to POEA and the DOLE," Baldoz said.

Baldoz noted that Cao is from the private sector and is expected to infuse fresh ideas to the country’s overseas employment program, and to plans and projects for OFWs.

DOLE undersecretary for employment and manpower development Danilo Cruz, however, noted in the same statement that Cao is an “outsider," even as the DOLE official lauded Cao’s “notable track record as a private sector practitioner."

“He may not have any background on overseas employment, but his experience will definitely provide the DOLE with new ideas," Cruz said.

According to Cruz, Cao’s “vast experience" in human resource management was a major factor in the DOLE’s decision to endorse his appointment to MalacaƱang.

Differing opinions

In a separate interview, however, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said recruiters were “disappointed" with Cao’s appointment. He said they would have preferred someone with previous or current positions at the DOLE or the POEA.

“We are hoping for the Aquino administration to appoint someone with experience in overseas recruitment," Geslani told GMANews.TV.

“He will go on a learning curve again, and it will take him some time to learn the ins and outs of the POEA," he added.

Geslani said one challenge Cao will have to take on as soon as he assumes the position is the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 10022, an amendatory law to RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.

Geslani explained that Section 3 of RA 10022 mandates that OFW destination countries be certified as having sufficient laws and programs for the protection of migrant workers, prior to the deployment of OFWs there.

“We have long been asking the POEA to release the list (of certified countries), so that we’ll know where to send OFWs, but they have not yet released it," said Geslani.

For his part, Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said while they welcome the appointment of a new POEA chief, they will be vigilant about how Cao will respond to issues besetting migrant workers.

Wine-welcome namin ‘yung pag-appoint ng bagong admin, pero magiging mapagbantay kami, halimbawa, kasi ang problema namin sa POEA, ‘yung mabagal na pagtugon sa reklamo ng mga OFW," Martinez told GMANews.TV in a separate interview.

(We welcome the appointment of a new POEA administrator, but we will remain vigilant, because one problem we have with the POEA is that it is too slow in responding to the complaints of OFWs.)

Martinez also said that while Cao’s being an “outsider" may be a disadvantage, one advantage is his “clean record," and that he is expected not to have ties with “abusive recruitment agencies".

For Martinez, a big problem that Cao has to immediately address is the rampant practice of contract substitution when OFWs workers are already at their work sites.

“‘Pag may contract substitution, nagsasara ‘yung mga recruitment agency dito. Paano ngayon hahabulin ang mga ito ng POEA?" he said.

(In cases of contract substitution, local recruitment agencies choose to just cease operations. How then does the POEA plan to go after them?)

Cao background

According to the DOLE, Cao, 55, graduated at the top of his class at the San Jose Elementary School in San Luis, Pampanga in 1967, and at the Baliuag Colleges High School Department in 1971. He finished journalism and law at the University of the Philippines in 1978 and 1984, respectively.

Prior to his appointment, Cao was practicing law at El Elyon & Cao Law Office, with expertise in labor relations and corporate law. He was also an assistant vice president at Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC), in charge of human resource management and corporate planning.

“He was responsible for the implementation of labor-management cooperation programs that won for MMPC the National Sikap-Gawa Award for having the most outstanding LMC program in 1996," the DOLE said. 

“He was also instrumental in the formulation of the company's business planning processes, productivity improvements, and global HR road mapping," the department added. 

His previous stint with the government included holding various positions at the Court of Appeals, Rural Waterworks Development Corp., Ministry of Trade, Public Estates Authority, Ministry of Human Settlements, UP College of Mass Communication and the National Irrigation Administration. - KBK, GMANews.TV

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