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24/10/2011: Embassy Identifying Opportunities for Filipino PCG Teachers

24 October 2011, Washington DC. Philippine Ambassador to Washington DC Jose Cuisia, Jr., vowed continued support for the Filipino teachers in Prince George’s County (PGC), Maryland despite the affirmation by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of the Administrative Law Judge of the settlement agreement between the US DOL and the PGC Public School System, which provides, among others a two-year debarment penalty on PGC public schools. Debarment prevents the schools from hiring and applying for visa renewals of foreign teachers, including Filipino teachers who have been teaching in the Maryland county for years.

“The Philippine Embassy continues to find ways and means to help the affected Filipino teachers find teaching jobs in Maryland and other states. We are coordinating with Catholic and public schools and associations in the U.S. to inform them that the affected teachers are well experienced, competent and available to fill teaching positions in their schools. We also support the decision of the Filipino teachers to elevate their case to the U.S. DOL Administrative Review Board,” Cuisia said.

Labor Attaché Luzviminda Padilla, meanwhile, said that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is networking with POLOs in other countries to find employment opportunities for the teachers. POLO-Australia was the first to give positive signal that there might be available teaching positions in Australia for qualified teachers, particularly those passers of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET).

The Philippine Government has also allocated US$10,000 as support fund for the legal case of the teachers. Welfare Officer Saul de Vries noted that the fund was provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration upon the recommendation of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Foreign Affairs.

In a related development, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, acting on the instruction of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., has recently placed under preventive suspension Arrowhead and Manpower Resources, the deploying agency of most of the PGC teachers. It has also suspended the participation of the PGC Public Schools in the overseas employment program of the Philippine government. Both suspensions were immediately effected until investigation of the circumstances surrounding the teachers’ deployment is fully concluded.

A re-entry program for the affected teachers who may have returned or wish to return to the Philippines is also being readied by the DOLE’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs. Livelihood, employment and training options will be made available to teachers interested in putting up small businesses in the Philippines, seeking new teaching jobs or wanting to acquire new or upgrade their existing skills. “The Philippine Embassy has also formally requested the Department of Education for assistance in providing the teachers with teaching positions in public and other schools where their acquired skills and experience would be most useful,” Cuisia added.  END