Taiwan firms fire more than 2,000 OFWs as recession hits

MANILA, Philippines — More than 2,000 Filipino workers have lost their jobs in Taiwan due to the global financial crisis and the number could triple by the end of the first quarter next year. That's according to Philippine diplomats.

Antonio Basilio acts as Manila's envoy in Taipei since the two countries have no official diplomatic ties. He said 2,073 workers were dismissed from 49 factories that had retrenched workers or closed shop since October.

Basilio told The Associated Press by phone from Taipei on Tuesday that the layoffs are part of the global recession, because Taiwan's economy "is export-dependent."

Labor attache Rodolfo Sabulao said officials project between up to 3,000 Filipinos in Taiwan could be displaced by year's end and another 3,000 could be dismissed by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

More jobless OFWs seen

Layoffs are affecting not just Filipino workers but also other foreign nationals, including Vietnamese, Indonesians, Thais and Indian nationals, Basilio has told visiting Filipino workers.

The layoffs are expected to peak by next quarter of 2009 as big companies whose export markets are the United States and Europe begin to feel the actual impact of the crisis.

He said the number of affected OFWs seeking assistance and processing their documents at the MECO has reached 400 workers a day.

Basilio's admission effectively negated claims by other MECO officials that the picture was rosier contrary to what the migrant groups Migrante International and Asia Pacific Migrants Mission (APPM) had been saying.

Not all is bad, however, said Basilio. He said job openings in the construction and services sectors would still serve as fallback to Filipinos who may desire to continue working in Taiwan. The demand is not as big, though, compared to the manufacturing industry, he added.

Basilio assured that MECO, the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, will continue to do intervention work to make sure those who lose their jobs get the benefits due them, and if possible including all the expenses paid to brokers.

Under the present situation, he said, the most that the government could do is to provide assistance and wait for the economic crisis to settle down, which hopefully would happen after the 1st quarter of next year.

Basilio said the most unfortunate are newly arrived OFWs who have yet to pay their debts back home.

Earlier, Basilio disclosed efforts for more Filipinos to be employed in Taiwan in line with its planned $15-billion economic stimulation program.

He said that even before this, new job openings for Filipinos still remain in sectors that are not as affected by the crisis, while deployment of new workers has outstripped the number of workers retrenched in November and this month.