By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR (Palau Horizon, Dec. 15) — The Philippine Foreign Affairs Department has warned Filipino jobseekers not to go to Palau as "tourists."

The advisory was issued following a report from the Philippine Embassy here that Filipino workers were being subjected to exploitation and abuse after being victimized by illegal recruiters.

Philippine Ambassador to Palau Leoncio Parungao said there is a continuing influx of Filipinos going to Palau despite the ban imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration on the deployment here of overseas Filipino workers whether though direct hiring or through job placement agencies.

According to the department’s advisory, Palau’s no-visa policy allows mostly unskilled Filipinos to try their luck here, lured by the false hope that they could go to the United States one day.

Palau is an independent nation "freely associated" with the U.S.

Palau’s existing labor regulations do not allow tourists to change status and work in the country.

The Filipino "tourists" are usually duped by illegal recruiters promising them jobs in Palau.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said in a statement that he has enlisted the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment and other agencies in the Philippines in curbing the illegal practice.

"Warnings like these are issued as part of the department’s policy to protect the interest of Filipinos abroad," Ople said.

The advisory was based on the written statements of victims that they were required to pay an average of $1,500 in placement fees and were promised one-year contract jobs in Palau.

The victims would usually end up working illegally here to earn money for their return tickets.

Ople said due to the high recruitment fees, the workers return to the Philippines penniless and in debt.

Ambassador Parungao said the embassy or Filipino associations in Palau usually end up shouldering the victims’ airfare.

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