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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Philippines Welcomes Hong Kong Ruling on Maids

From Channel News Asia/Filipino Sa Abroad
MANILA – The Philippines on Friday welcomed a Hong Kong court decision that could allow foreign maids to settle permanently in the Chinese territory, saying it was a victory for equal rights.

"It is a step forward in recognising the rights of migrants," Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on overseas workers, said in a statement.

"Overseas Filipino workers have contributed to the economies of their host countries and the decision recognises their contributions."

A Hong Kong court on Friday ruled a law banning foreign maids from settling permanently in the city was unconstitutional. There are more than 137,000 Filipino domestic helpers working in Hong Kong.

The legal action was brought by Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino domestic helper who has lived in Hong Kong since 1986.

Philippine activist group Migrante International, which represents Filipinos working overseas, also praised the ruling, saying it helped boost the status of domestic helpers who were treated as inferiors abroad.

"The ruling gives them equality. Domestic helpers are not really seen as equals in countries where they work," Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante, told AFP.

"The important thing is that their rights are being recognised after so many years of working."

But Martinez said Hong Kong authorities would likely react to the ruling by tightening their laws to make it harder for Filipinos to get permanent residency there, as other developed economies had done.

About nine million Filipinos — 10 per cent of the population — work abroad, earning more money in a wide range of skilled and unskilled sectors than they could in their impoverished homeland.

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